Mother Teresa put it aptly when she wrote, “I am a tiny pencil in the hand of God, writing a love letter to the world.” But would God use me — a brown girl — to express love in the world? The answer is yes. Love is part of the very fiber of our being — not separate from who we are; it was created when we were created and it never stops creating itself. Love is in our hearts; and we are in the heart of love. As John says, “[e]veryone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:19) Many brown girls the world over suffer from a lack of self-esteem, which is really a lack of self-love and self worth. We are inundated with so many negative opinions of us — from the media, family and friends, or our own minds. We are obessessed with who we aren’t, what we aren’t, what we haven’t done, how we don’t look, where we haven’t been, why we can’t — rather than focused on the love of God blessing us and lifting us unconditionally. Roberta Flack sings, “where is the love?” To find love, we have to stop looking outside of ourselves and dig deep within. We have to release the beliefs that society imposes on us, as well as our own self- imposed negative thoughts about ourselves. The best way to start loving yourself is through forgiveness. We have to forgive society. We have to forgive the world. We have to forgive ourselves. We have to forgive the haters and even the discriminators. We have to forgive those who hurt us. We have to forgive those who lost our trust. The amazing thing is that forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for us. Forgiveness opens our hearts to accept the love that is always inside — and by so doing, forgiveness creates spaces to accept the love of others. Brown girls need love like everybody else. Brown girls have a tremendous capacity to love too — because we are here to radiate the love of God as us — in our beauty, in our rhythm, in our warmth, in our strength, in our wisdom, in our creativity, in our dance, in our song, in our power, in our intelligence, in our compassion. The problem is that we need to believe that we are the best thing that ever happened to us — not a man or a job or an opportunity — just us. When we brown girls truly begin to believe in our self-worth, then we will begin to pass our love to the world. The Ragbaby Exchange uses doll-making to help release the layers of self doubt and unforgiving attitudes to uncover the love and beauty of the brown girl. The magic of making and embracing our love through dolls is healing. Doctors use dolls to calm patients with dementia. Social workers and therapist use dolls to help victims of abuse express what has happened to them. Children hold and play with dolls to comfort them but while playing they learn how to be nurturing. The Ragbaby Exchange engages participants of all ages in doll-making as a way to express themselves. The dolls becaome their self-portrait. This self-portrait begins the process of discovery that brings about a sense of acceptance of one’s own love and beauty. Through our doll-making workshops, we peel back the layers of negative thoughts and allow you to: • express your thoughts and emotions in healthy growth producing ways, • gain a sense of accomplishment, which helps move you toward self affirmation and divine potential, • learn to forgive, accept and value yourself and others, • see your own inner beauty and feel the love inside of you. Once we can see our own beauty and feel our own love expressed through this doll, we are able to be that tiny pencil. Through our release and acceptance of self, we become the words in God’s love letter. When we decide to pass our beautiful loving self-image to another person, in effect, they are given a love letter from God, which says, “I love you.” Peter said, “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8) Change your life by joining me at God is a Brown Girl Too, and start a chain reaction of spreading God’s love with a little brown doll filled with your love. Sherri Roberts-Lumpkin, Founder/Creative Director, The Ragbaby Exchange, will be doing some fantastic workshops at the Retreat, using the power of dolls to transform a Brown Girl’s love and appreciation of herself.