A Review of Tabitha Brown's Feeding the Soul
It is in the middle of 2020, the heat of the pandemic. Everything feels like it is falling apart. You are tired and wondering, “where is God in the face of all these?” You are looking for answers or joy in what other people share on social media (how everyone is trying to remain connected), especially with those trends, dances, and Tik Tok. Everyone is telling you how to make the most of the pandemic, what businesses to do, what’s right, and whatnot. It feels like there are so many answers to questions you have not asked and unending questions with no answers. The thought of what you know and don’t know is exhausting. In the midst of this, you stumble upon Tabitha Brown’s video. She starts with “Hello there. Y’all aright?” and says she understands, and she says she loves you.
Many of us that have stumbled across Tabitha’s platform and eventually become ardent followers of her advice and love know exactly what I am talking about in the first paragraph. That was my introduction to Tabitha Brown before I knew she was vegan and before I met Donna (her hair). Like a baby sucking a thumb persistently, you soak yourself in every video she posts, and you can’t stop asking, “Why does a stranger's voice feel like home and makes me want to cry?” I don’t know if it is her soothing voice or that she always knows the right thing to say every time. Reading this book felt like her sitting with me and speaking to me.
Do you know how books sometimes strip the author of their voice and persona? I am so glad this wasn’t the case with the book – Feeding the Soul by Tabitha Brown. With every “Hello there,” “Honey,” “Baby,” and “Good,” she writes, you feel Tabitha’s presence and warmth. The closest thing I could liken Tabitha to is the Holy Spirit, and if the Holy Spirit ever wore a human being, experience, or flesh, it would Tabitha.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”
The comfort she shares delivers God’s peace and passes understanding. Of course, she is not perfect, and you will see that through the stories of her triumphs, humility, and perseverance in the book, Feeding the Soul. However, she is willing to let God lead and shine through her unconventionally, in a way that stands out.
The book is written in five parts. She starts by telling the story of her childhood and young adult years, discovering when she had the talent of dreaming. Like many of us who conceal our God-created and given natures, she tried to hide this gift out of the fear of being called crazy, which troubled her. However, with her mother’s support, she eventually grew into it, used it to her advantage and others. Tabitha told the story of when she had a dream about a co-worker’s limb being cut which signified a health problem. Fearfully, Tabitha informed the co-worker about it, and upon medical check-up, the co-worker discovered she had cancer. The early discovery was lifesaving, and the co-worker went into treatment immediately.
In part two, she talks about her calling to become an actor and how that unfolded, sometimes unsteadily but surely. Part two resonated the most because I am finally working towards studying what I have always loved and felt called to do “Creative Writing,” and while I am excited, I am equally terrified. I was telling a friend recently that I have run out of excuses not to pursue this dream. Like many of us, who know what we are called to but pursue something different out of fear and pressure, Tabitha did that on her first try in college at the International Fine Arts College in Miami, Florida. Fortunately, she had a father who listened to her when she called and said this wasn’t right. Even when she left school, things didn’t go smoothly immediately. A family member who had promised she had a good place for Tabitha to stay in California if she ever decided to move wasn’t truthful about the reality that she would face. With the support of her then-boyfriend and now husband, Chance, Tabitha moved back to North Carolina as a way to reset and get her feet grounded.
As life happens to many of us, it seemed like the dream of becoming an actress was slowly withering. What was supposed to be a one-year stay to get her feet grounded turned into five years and starting a family. She wrote in the chapter titled “It’s Going to Happen,” “As much as I didn’t want to be stuck, I started to buy into the idea that my life in Greensboro was all there was for me. I really stopped dreaming. I stopped thinking about acting.” The book carries the reader along, and you could feel every rise and fall through the descriptions. She desperately prayed for a sign from God about what she should be doing, and it came through a local opportunity. Over the years, she worked several jobs, including being a UPS call center supervisor, a hairdresser in her home, a UBER driver, and a Certified Nursing Assistant, still showing up and giving her best. When she could, she took acting classes and any acting opportunities that arose. She teaches the important lesson that reaching the top of a mountain requires climbing stairs (training) to build resilience and knowledge.
She touched many pain points of her life, including an accident she had at a young age, a date rape, her mother suffering from a life-ending disease – ALS, her anger towards her parent’s divorce, and her stepmother. Tabitha shares how the healing from these experiences taught her humility and kindness for herself and others. One of her biggest transformative experiences was becoming a vegan. Like she has shared on social media, her choice to become a vegan was caused by body pain from a car accident. As sad as some of these stories were, they were equally humorous and victorious.
One of the most profound messages Tabitha teaches is about love. It is easy to love someone you agree with and who agrees with you, or sometimes family. However, in a world where labels are quickly thrown around to depict people who disagree with our pursuit negatively, Tabitha offered a great perspective. Her husband, Chance, supported her dreams to the best of his capacity but sometimes, it took a little more effort to be convinced. This brings a challenge to the current norms of quickly labeling someone else a hater, cutting them off, and canceling them when they disagree with our conviction. It begs the question: how do you help someone you love and who you know also loves you, see what you envision of yourself? Rather than let that be a source of contempt, she tells stories that inform us how we should continue to love and help others to grow as we are doing for ourselves. Tabitha’s admiration and love for Chance and vice versa, seeing his support of her pursuits at the times when she couldn’t be at home, is exemplary.
There are several stories in the book that this review doesn’t cover, and you’ll have to read for yourself. However, one of the most touching is how Tabitha found joy after her mother’s loss. In the final years of her life suffering from ALS, Tabitha’s mom, Ms. Patricia Blackstock Johnson, found ways to write her story. When she lost the use of her right hand, she quickly learned how to write with the left. When she lost the use of both arms, she used her mouth to record. Even in passing, there is a story about the appearances of dimes that have been a sign from Ms. Patricia Blackstock Johnson to Tabitha Brown in moments of loneliness, joy, and sadness.
Nearly 12 years after her mother’s passing, Tabitha, slowly recovering the courage to listen to those voice notes and read the journals left behind, wrote in the final chapter, “Three minutes into the first tape, and I shut it off quickly. My mother was praying. Her voice was sweet but powerful. It was like music to my ears. But I hadn’t heard it in more than twelve years. She had such a delicate tone. A true lady, in every way. I fell into tears because I missed her, yes, but also because I was thankful that she took the time, made a way out of no way, to leave her voice with me. It didn’t matter if she had to poke the record button with a pencil she’d picked up with her mouth; she persisted.”
When I read that part, I was almost in tears again because it reminded me of the first time I saw Tabitha Brown through a video on Instagram. The soothing understanding of her voice as she said, “Hello there. Y’all right?” felt like home to me and many others commenting even today that they feel seen, heard, and loved. Tabitha Brown is that sister, friend, mother, aunty, and more to all of us. It is thrilling to see her persistence and even more joyful to know she has all she dreamt, worked hard, and believed God for. But, most importantly, she gets to tell her story!