Fifty Years Ago

Elmer Malcolm Stokes, 1951

Elmer Malcolm Stokes, 1951

My father left my mother (and me) fifty years ago this year. Nothing in my life was ever the same after that. For decades I was furious (in therapy and furious) at him. Then my cousins sent me some letters he wrote when he was a young man, and I started a search to understand him better and to understand myself. Flying Over Home is the result of that search.

Flying pc FRONT for AmazonFlying Over Home
by Jeanette Stokes
(Words & Spirit, 2013) $18.95
ISBN 978-0-9821848-5-1


BUY it online ($20 includes tax & shipping):
With PayPal: here.
With your credit card  through RCWMS: here.
In your local bookstore or at


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Flying Over Home, a new memoir

Flying pc FRONT for AmazonFlying Over Home by Jeanette Stokes
(Words & Spirit, 2013) $18.95
ISBN 978-0-9821848-5-1

Flying Over Home is a searing account of a girl’s loss of her father and an adult woman’s quest to find him again. In writing that is at once passionate, precise, and poetic, Jeanette Stokes takes us on a journey from Tulsa to New Orleans to Paris to Moscow to North Carolina, connecting the dots, fanning through letters and photographs, searching for the light of her father’s smile. I have never read a more compelling book about the disastrous consequences of divorce. Yet ultimately, Stokes brings the story home to her own healing heart.
—Elaine Neil Orr, A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa 

Jeanette Stokes is founder and Executive Director of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. The author of Hurricane Season, 25 Years in the Garden, and 35 Years on the Path, Stokes lives in Durham with her husband.

To buy Flying Over Home ($20 including shipping) using PayPal, click here.
To order your copy ($20 including shipping) from RCWMS: here

Purchase at local bookstores such as Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC.
Questions or to order by email:

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November 22, 1963

Drinking Fountain

“I walked out of my seventh grade English class on the afternoon of November 22, 1963 to get a drink of water. I was twelve. While drinking from the fountain in the hall, a male voice came over the loudspeaker, “We have just received news that the President of the United States has been shot.” Less than an hour before, that same hallway had been teaming with life, as hot young bodies pushed and shoved their way to the next class, slamming locker doors and squealing as only early adolescents can. But as I stood alone at the drinking fountain, stunned by the unimaginable, the hallway seemed frighteningly empty. The beige glazed-blocks of the wall in front of me were unsympathetic and the green terrazzo floor unyielding.

Later that day, I learned President Kennedy had been shot while riding in an open-top limousine in a motorcade in Dallas. Texas, my Texas, just fifty miles from my beloved grandmother. How could that be? Horrible things weren’t supposed to happen in places you could picture. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m. at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where my father had once been a medical resident. Later on that day, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and charged with murder.

That would have been unnerving enough to a budding adolescent girl, but that was only the beginning.” –Flying Over Home, Jeanette Stokes (2013, Words & Spirit)

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shutterstock_31537807-427x283Too much. It’s too much for us to take in, and yet people of faith are called to take it in.

Yesterday was Patriots’ Day in Boston. This I learned last night in the grocery store when I ran into my friend Milton, who was wearing his bright red Red Sox shirt. He used to live in the Boston area and explained the day to me. Each year, schools let out, the Red Sox play a home game at Fenway Park, and the marathon is run. This year was also Tax Day. It is hard to know which of those might have been the target of the violence, but it is eerily like a horror movie version of the Boston Tea Party.

This morning’s news carried a story by Thomas Freeman (New York Times) about an emotional numbness that has taken hold of people in Damascus, Syria, where violence has become daily fare.

More news–a bomb (belonging to “our side”) went astray in Afghanistan, landed on a village, and, reportedly, killed 30 people at a wedding. The U.S. military response was an official version of “Ooops.”

And today is April 16, the sixth anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook was only four months ago.

If you haven’t heard, the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon began with a moment of silence in memory of the 26 children and adults who died at Sandy Hook. The race ended with its own carnage.

It’s too much. We are awash in violence. I don’t want to go numb. I feel wobbly. Periodically, I feel like I might burst into tears, which is, after all, a normal, appropriate, feeling response.

I called a friend. She reminded me that we set off explosives in the ocean all the time that make the whales crazy. Right. We seem to have low regard for creatures who are not human. And what of our regard for humans? My money helped pay for the bomb dropped on the civilians in Afghanistan.

I don’t know that the incidences of personal violence have changed much in this country over the last 30 years, but I do know that the instances of public violence are on the rise.

I’m grateful to the people who posted Mr. Rogers’ quote on Facebook. Rogers’ mother told him that when really bad news was reported, he should look for the “helpers.” Look for the people who run to offer assistance.

May our hearts stay open enough that we might feel the sadness, and the pain, and that we might still know how to offer compassion, connection, or a hand when the time comes.

(Image credit: Statue of Paul Revere in front of Boston’s Old North Church. Photo by Jorge Sacedo via Shutterstock.)

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My interview on NPR

I was interviewed by Frank Stasio on The State of Things this week. In case you want to listen in, here’s the link.  They are calling the story, “Minister Helps Women Nourish Their Spirituality In and Ojeanetteut of the Church.”

I received lots of kind messages from friends who heard the interview as well as a call from my college boyfriend. It’s amazing what being on the radio can produce!

Photo by Amy Kellum

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The New Pope

New PopeWe all want to be hopeful about a new pope, but just because the guy likes to wear old shoes and cook his own food, that does not make him a progressive. He is flatly, publicly, actively, and historically against:

liberation theology
gay marriage,
contraception & abortion,
the ordination of women,
and if he doesn’t address sexual abuse by clergy in the first 60 days, then the only thing that will be new in this version of the ship is the arrangement of the deck chairs.

For more, just Google the pope & Mary E. Hunt, Marian Ronan, or Susan Thistlethwaite, or look at:

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There is a lovely pink crepe myrtle blooming outside my living room window. It is still young and began blooming a bit later than other myrtles around town. The city planted it in the little park next to my house.

I fell in love with the colorful trees when I lived in the upstairs of an old house in Greensboro, NC, in the late 1970s. A tall pink crepe myrtle bloomed right outside my bedroom window. My landlady’s first name was Myrtle, and I often think of her when the tree next to my house is in bloom.

The bright blossoms seem like a gift in late summer when the the fig tree has stopped giving, the tomato plants slow down, and the zinnias start looking a little dry. They remind me that each season has its own gifts for us.

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