After graduating from college, I moved to the biggest city in Maine for my first “real job,” bringing with me a wardrobe fashioned around college life south of the Mason-Dixon. Clearly, my flimsy sandals would not fit my new life as a ministry professional. However, it soon became apparent that my feet were not going to fit into any of the smooth and snappy dress shoes I admired at the Maine Mall. Navigating life with big feet has been part of my journey of self-acceptance, and a huge aspect of my mental soundtrack that I’m still rewriting.
In How to Fix a Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Relationships, and Learning to Be Myself, Amena Brown shares her own trail of super-sized footsteps from sneakers and flats to styling elegance in her Beyoncé stilettos. With footwear as a metaphor for self-acceptance, the spoken-word poet and inspirational author also remembers the freedom of learning to love her own natural hair after years of fighting it. Looking back over her shoulder with humility and gratitude, Amena honors the resiliency and courage of the women who have contributed to her story’s formation:
“My great-grandmother picked cotton
and worked in a tobacco factory
so my grandmother could work at a hospital
so my mom could become a nurse
so I could become a poet.”
A product of the I Kissed Dating Goodbye generation, Amena was astonished to find herself still single at age 30. Now, happily married, she writes with transparency about the disappointment of infertility and her puzzlement with the ways of God, who moves slowly and in ways that are, at times, inscrutable. Her collection of stories documents her progress in working on the broken messages that have colored her thinking (and which are prevalent in Christian circles):
“I am learning the painful truth that even when you pray and ask God, even when you quote back to God the applicable Scriptures, even when you walk around the object you are praying for six times and play your trumpet on the seventh, God doesn’t always answer the way you want him to.” (158)
Remind Your Soul that God is Bigger than You
Solid roots in the Body of Christ and in one’s identity as a daughter of God are indispensable in embracing the hard realities that come with a complicated family tree. Amena began laying down healthy grooves in her record by honoring her roots following a DNA test, some hard disclosures, and a commitment to the challenge of painful wondering.
Like a vinyl record, the grooves in the human heart catch and preserve all manner of voices. We spend our lives layering message upon message, and in the process we come to define ourselves by what’s been caught in the grooves. It is startling, then, when words and feelings long forgotten (we thought) rise to the surface as a reminder that the healing process must continue. The God who makes all things new can also make broken things whole.
Be Humble and Kind and Say “No”
As an artist and an entrepreneur, Amena Brown lives in the tension between staying true to her calling and building a business. Taking responsibility for her own choices, she has learned to say “no, even if it means less money, less popularity, fewer likes.” She has concluded that there is much wisdom in realizing she “must constantly lay down the weight of opinion, the chokehold of pride, the race of comparison. It is saying no to my own selfishness, no to trying my best to be god instead of walking with and learning from God how to be who he created me to be.” (119)
Brown urges women to surround themselves with a squad of warriors who will lament, pray, rejoice, and speak truth into our lives. Book-mentors and on line friends lend us courage if we read well and choose our influencers carefully.
There’s Healing in the Stillness
It takes discipline to pull away from the continual pressure to “do” when your soul requires time simply to “be.” The healing power of sleep, the perspective that comes from pulling away, the peace of a slow listen to the voice of God: this is a humble stance and a product of wisdom.
Amena Brown invites her readers into a thoughtful parsing of our motives behind our lists and all the busy-ness that keeps us spinning. Intent on “making something of ourselves,” we forget that God is the primary Maker, and it is only He who can fix our broken records. We are made for the music of truth and hope. Healing and a healthy future are found in the groove of grace that God longs to write into your story.
This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLook Bloggers Program in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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