What I believe about my work, my calling, above all is: I am here to encourage and remind people of God's love, and, to hope.
I remember sitting on the sofa in my grandparent's home at age 11 after experiencing my second trauma - witnessing the murder of my mom by her abuser. My first trauma was suffering physical abuse from the same abuser. I was listening to my cassette player and George Benson was belting out his hit song, "The Greatest Love of All." (The song was later made famous by the late Whitney Houston.)
Anyway, I sang along with Mr. Benson as if I was singing in the shower:
"I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way...I found the greatest love of all inside of me...The greatest love of all is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. And if by chance that special place that you've been dreaming of. Lead you to a lonely place. Find your strength in love."
Wait, you mean to tell me The Greatest Love of All lived inside of ME?
An abused, abandoned, dark-skinned little girl who had just become orphaned because my mom was murdered and my dad didn't want me.
There was love?
It didn't take long to learn that God loves me. God lives inside me and God is the love that's on the inside of me. In the words of Ntozake Shange, "I found god in myself, and I loved her fiercely."
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Recently, when my daughter faced one of life's crisis and asked my advice on how to navigate the situation. I told her, "All I know is God. God has been the one constant thing in my life that's never failed me. Ever. I told her that God is inside each of us, which means we already have everything we need to deal with and overcome life's challenges. God's love is enough. I am enough and she is enough.
I believe God has given me the life I have to be a light, a source of hope, and inspiration to others. I am an ambassador of God's faithfulness. My smile reflects the Greatest Love of all, God's love, that lives inside - ME.
God has been preparing me my entire life to be a ray of hope for those who suffer. Because I continue to rise, trauma after trauma after trauma after trauma, I continue to shine as I embody the essence of what it means to hope.
On that same sofa, where I discovered self-love and acceptance, my grandmother and I would sit up late night and watch Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. We'd eat buttermilk and cornbread (though I couldn't fathom eating it now, lol) and have real talks about how to survive in life.
We talked about how to be a lady - she talked about how classy and elegant my mom was, and to always use her as my guide.
We had "The Talk" that the majority of black kids have on being black...in America and how to stay alive, and how to stand my ground at the same time with self-respect and respect for others.
We talked about my responsibility to take care of my younger siblings, and we talked about how much she wanted more for my life.
She reminded me to excel because my siblings were watching. That I needed to be the example for them. To show them there is always more available in life than any one element or situation.
This season of preparation and transition has totally changed my life and how I serve. And while seasons are changing, yet again, it's imperative to remember "from whence I've come."
I can hear her now setting the foundation for what was to come almost 40 years later, "Tammie Denyse, don't ever get too full of yourself that you don't come back and help someone else along life's journey."
I'm coming, Mua (our beloved name for grandma).
My next is here!
The Promise of Hope