Day 15: Dreams From Our Ancestors

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}

 

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Midnight Memories

When the grandmothers speak, the world will begin to heal. —Hopi Proverb

One night this last summer, I had a vivid dream about my Grandma Downing’s house, the one in Ringling, Oklahoma, with a lot of farmland behind it and a shed next door where my Granddad had his own space. I dreamt about the big trees that my brother and sister climbed, about the attic and the back porch where we ran around with my Uncle Michael and Uncle Damon.

I haven’t seen that house since childhood, and the bits of memories I have are wrapped up in my own heart and family photos and stories of how we played there. But I can still smell the biscuits and bacon and fried eggs, and I can still remember the way Grandma told me not to sing at the table with a stern but loving glimmer in her eye.

I dreamt that a friend of ours bought the house and remodeled it, repurposed it to fit their lifestyle today. They busted out walls and opened wide spaces wider. They invited me to see the newly remodeled space, and when I entered, I walked through the house and wept.

I wept for my father’s mother, a woman that I couldn’t see anymore, a woman I hadn’t seen for years before she died when I was in high school. I wept because I missed her presence, her spirit, which I felt close to as a toddler when I’d run through her yard and kitchen and play with the long strands of pearls that were hanging on her vanity mirror.

I wept because I knew that in reality the house burned down when I was in college and isn’t there anymore. In reality, another house lives there and the memories of my Grandma and Granddad are buried in the dirt where the groundhogs live in the pasture.

I woke from the dream with tears in my eyes, and I couldn’t let go of the memories. I spent the morning recalling, looking through that old house with my mind’s eye, seeing the back porch full of wasp’s nests and old furniture; the kitchen TV that played Wheel of Fortune religiously every evening; the side room with the giant freezer and an extra refrigerator to feed the whole family when they came to visit; the door that opened to the attic stairs, all the way up to that stuffy room where my siblings and cousins played school and read books and pretended to be ghosts; the front porch where the aloe plant stood in the corner and old china dishes sat in a hutch.

Something about that place is embedded in who I am, from the tarantula who crawled across the back of my foot to the plants and kittens we played with in the backyard.

Something from that place still invades my senses every now and then, still reminds me that she is there helping shape me all these years later. Her voice still brings me back to all of my ancestors, to indigenous roots that claim me, even today.

That house comes back to see me in a dream, and in her transformation I remember that I am being constantly re-created and molded and formed, constantly sent back to find who I am after all these years, and where she will take me later in life.

God,

Dreams are the funniest things, and

when we ask for them,

you don’t always answer

in the way we’d hope.

Sometimes you answer

in odd and surprising ways,

sometimes calling us back

to something that has

long been forgotten.

And the remembering

can be painful

and hard

and we may not

be willing.

But there

in the quiet of sleep

we find that your presence

leads us into and out of ourselves,

back and forth across thresholds

that we cannot control.

And as we process ourselves,

our life stories, we are thankful that

you cherish them and ask us to recall

key moments, to learn to cherish

our own lives in our own way.

Thank you for that.

Amen.

 

 


 

This story is from my recently released book, Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places. This is what dreams mean for us, to indigenous peoples as messages and encouragements from the Creator and from our ancestors. They speak to us, help us move forward, remind us of who we are. Without dreams, we miss so much of a world that is longing for us to know it and to know ourselves.

 

7 GRATITUDES: a bullet poem

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For a little while now, I’m joining some friends to celebrate gratitude every Friday.

Today, a bullet poem:

 


At the end of this string of weekdays, I breathe hello to Friday and remember gratefulness.

Some say that it’s the thing that holds us together, this practice of looking at the world and saying we’re glad to be a part of it.

So I gather my seven gratitudes, seven expressions of hope.

  • I count two little heads that sleep beneath covers at night, the two boys that I get to spend my days learning beside. They illuminate every darkness.
  • The redwing blackbirds visit, daily placing their silhouettes against our bright blue skies, surprising us with their always-togetherness. Family.
  • Dreams, the kind that entertain- Obama singing along with Mumford at an awards show- Dreams, the kind that prophesy and teach, remind and restore.
  • Worship, the breathing room kind that meets outside religion’s walls, that calls me back to God in the middle of everything that is life. Worship is a beckoning, and we would be wise to let her otherness bring us together, especially in these weary days.
  • In that moment just last week, I said to a friend that I don’t read the Bible much– spoken word– a prayer issued to God, a bible brought to my mailbox yesterday from a far-off friend, accompanied by a bar of dark chocolate. This far-off friend, who once kissed me on the forehead and called me loved. A Bible and a bar of dark chocolate commissioned with the words, “We long for your company with the love of God.”
  • In process of good work, we as what good work means. Does it mean to breathe without worry, to look in another’s eyes without conflict, to practice empathy in every way? Progress in book writing and song writing, worship leading and teaching, learning and re-learning; a real-life book in the works with a real-life deadline and a real-life release date, and I think that this good work is what I’m made of for now.
  • Grateful that the future belongs to the enduring space of shalom? Absolutely.

 

Absolutely grateful.

 

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A Year of Listening: finding myself in the reading room

With my husband’s parking pass, I spent a few hours on campus. I grabbed a coffee in my keep cup and headed across the brick-lined road to the library, where the security guard greeted me.

“Welcome to the library, where all your dreams come true,” this tall and kind African American man said.

I smiled and told him that I was there to return a book for my husband, but that I’d certainly be reading, too.

I quickly made my way to level three and found it: The William L. Matheson Reading Room.

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When we first moved here, Travis brought me to this room, and the Rory Gilmore inside of me had to hold back her whoops of delight.

A room lined with periodicals, a room with a marble floor that every chair scoot bounces noise off of. Long tables with lamps, nooks with chairs.

I looked at a psychology magazine and wondered for a moment what it would be like to be in school again.

My four years of motherhood at home with the boys have been just what we all needed.

And as we continue the journey, I’m being called back, ushered into another world that will bleed into my mommy one.

The boys and I, we are students. We learn together every day, our curiosity overflowing into our little apartment home and our world– sometimes I think those walls can barely contain us.

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A few weeks ago, God spoke something to me. It was something like, “Maybe what your boys need to see you doing is following me, as wild as it may turn out to be.”

And so I cried and said, “yes, yes, I know,” and we’ve kept praying and pressing in.

So for the next year or so, we are waiting.

We are processing and looking and examining, and our hope is that I can go to seminary while we’re living here.

We are seeking that we may find, and every day I am inviting the boys along with me– because this journey is ours.

So I sit in the reading room, and remember how He has wired me– to be the curious soul, the hard working student, the diligent learner. It is my joy.

So maybe in this next year of the wait, I’ll come back to this room when I can, and sit at this table and write and dream.

And because it’s quiet, and it’s not a bustling coffee shop or the comfort of my bed at home where I often read and write, it’s a new experience in listening.

At Wednesday night bible study a few weeks ago, our interim pastor Roger Paynter said, “We’re still a part of the story, you see?”

This is my story, and our story.

And it’ll be crazy, and we’ll take one step forward and two back, but they will be our steps, nonetheless.

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So say a prayer for this family of ours, will you friends?

And may we all listen in when God tells of the mystery-things that so delight His heart.

A Letter to Annie (Dillard)

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Annie,

Just as I was starting to feel sorry for myself, you stepped in.

I searched the bookshelf. I looked into Dostoevsky’s face, glanced at Desmond Tutu, but sent him away.

As my heart and eyes continued their search, they came to you, sitting by Tinker Creek.

I’m a pilgrim, you’re a pilgrim, and it just seemed right.

I didn’t need anything frilly today. I needed truth, and that in the midst of quite a fog.

When one spends the holidays away from family, it can be hard.

When one spends the holidays away with little money to spare, it can be a little harder.

So I spent a few minutes crying and then got up and moved on.

And here, open to your fifteenth chapter, I am stirred.

Van Morrison sings in my ear, Alison Kraus serenades again and I hear you loud and clear, that bell chiming at midday:

Beauty is real. I would never deny it; the appalling thing is that I forget it.

 

There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

 

This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.

Oh, Annie!

How we get lost in the little things, especially the hard ones.

And we dry our teary eyes because we know, really, that it’s not that hard, and the moments of joy outweigh the specks of sorrow.

So, I cannot forget the beauty– the glory of my favorite season; the shiny-ness of Christmas lights and the cozy-everything of a cold fall day; the blessings of community and the wildness of child-play.

And I cannot deny myself the deepest truths that speak themselves to me every single day:

that we’re provided for, in all ways, from the deep to the deep, from the then to the now and into the eternal;

that life beams inside and through us;

that family is this, and we have every day to be here with each other in every midst.

No, Annie, I can’t take this afternoon with me.

This coffee is almost gone, the boys will be waking up soon, and this song is nearly over. The crooning dims to whispery softness, and onto nothing but quiet.

But I take these words with me, these promises that linger in my veins, that fill my head and heart with a fresh kindness and a tender kick in the pants–

promises of life-raising, of Lazarus dreams and everything holy to grab hold of.

 

 

Thanks for that.

 

—K—

Snapshots & Fortune Cookies

“We must always have old memories and young hopes.”

I’ve written this quote by Arsene Houssaye down again, because the words still weigh heavy and pierce so deep.

After filing taxes, we went to eat at Hunan Manor– of course, to celebrate that in a month we will have some money.

This piece of paper slipped out of Trav’s fortune cookie, and he handed it straight to me:

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This, in 9 simple words, reflects my life right now.

These next 5 months will absolutely flash by,  and we’ll be gone, on to new hopes.

But, like a gardener, I want to dig my fingers deep into the soil of this life season, and see the fruit of my work spring forth.

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I’m going to write on some “snapshots” of our time here– places we’ve frequented, people we’ve adored, experiences that have transformed us.

Because I need to process, and in saying good-bye, I need closure with the place where I bore my babies and drank good coffee and ate mexican food.

It’s the place where we fell in love with neighbors as they fell for our kids, where our gardens didn’t always grow, but we still planted.

Because one day, this place will become old memories.

We will dig fingers into unknown and new soil soon, young hope in every pulse.

Old memories, young hopes.

Please join me as I reminisce; a scrapbook of the heart, a journaling of life sweetly lived.

Birthing Dreams

Throw a blanket over me.

You, with the overarching assumptions and created hate.

There is mockery and broken-record talk on your lips.

So throw your blanket over me.

I am under it with

the OTHER,

the THEMS,

the THEYS,

who protest in the streets like oppressed people would– because they are.

And you are acting cold in the above-water, lifeless stream.

But I need the warmth.

There in the womb of reconciliation it is peaceful, and all that flows between us brings me to them.

I’d invite you in, but come with arms open and weapons down, mouth silent and ears hearing.

Come under the blanket. It’s not always what it seems.

Come under the blanket. Let’s give birth to new dreams.