Day 20: Backwater Bridge & Police Brutality

{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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It was on this day last year that water protectors and protestors at Standing Rock were doused with water in freezing temperatures and shot at with rubber bullets.

I recently tweeted that indigenous people cannot trust institutions, because they are such a key part of our generational trauma, and the events at Standing Rock were a reminder of this for modern times.

My father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Native American police officers hired by the government to police other Native Americans. When I was young, I didn’t understand what that meant, and I’m still trying to understand it today as an adult. At Standing Rock and throughout the history of the United States, the BIA have played a crucial role between tribes and the government, often in negative ways. It’s important to have conversations about police and systematic brutality toward Native Americans in the United States today, and what happened at Standing Rock one year ago is a clear example of human rights violations on a broad scale.

According to this article, Native Americans suffer brutality at the hands of police at very high rates–higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.. Recently, a fourteen year old boy, Jason Pero, was shot by police. His story is just one of many, many that go unheard, justice never reached. Even in the CDC article mentioned above, we suspect that the numbers are higher than reported, because so many don’t even get reported. So many voices are not heard.

And if we aren’t outraged by this, something is wrong–something has been wrong for a while now. In our education systems we have to begin teaching our children the true history of our nation, and we have to teach them how to celebrate the individual tribes and cultures that make up this country.

In our churches we have to have conversations about our history, about boarding schools and the idea of salvation that first began generations of genocide and abuse and removal.

And we have to protest when indigenous men and women are shot, when indigenous women go missing, when human rights abuses take place. We have to make it a point that we do not forget Standing Rock and everything it stood for and continues to teach us.

I sat on my couch for days watching live feeds, and every moment was both teaching me who I was and completely wrecking every part of me. I saw the reality of America, of what it used to be and what it has become, all in front of me, in real time. Backwater Bridge and other episodes of police brutality toward indigenous peoples in America today should be a serious wake up call– a wake up call to the church, to our school systems, to the way we talk about our history.

If we do anything today, let’s make sure we’re having conversations.

Let’s make sure we’re asking questions of institutions that put profit over people.

Let’s make sure we’re paying attention to the cries of a forgotten and silenced earth who should never be silenced.

Let’s make sure we’re listening to those who have been oppressed in so many ways.

Let’s make sure this never happens again.

 

 

 

Day 9: Indigenous Nonviolent Resistance

{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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Do you remember Standing Rock last year? Do you remember how it seemed to lift away a veil from so many people who did not know that indigenous people are still here, still resisting, still trying to thrive?

I watched live feeds from my living room couch everyday that I could during that time. It seemed to coincide with my own coming alive, with my own soul trying to understand what it means to be a descendent of someone who resisted, of someone who was pushed out of the places they once thrived. It was the first time my heart literally hurt in my chest with the pain that I belong to those ancestors. I belong to a legacy of genocide and removal and hurt.

There is a movement of resistance happening right now in Hawaii, and I want to draw your attention to it today. There is a sacred mountain in Hawaii called Mauna Kea that is being threatened, not for the first time, to be taken over with a giant telescope. You can watch this video to get a little information about it. 

It’s important to point out here that in the way of Jesus that is so often talked about in Christianity, indigenous peoples have been following that way for a long time. It is the way of nonviolent resistance, of prayerful resistance. The savage identity places on native peoples has distorted this idea and blinded many to the reality that people like those at Standing Rock are people of prayer.

And so, in Hawaii, our brothers and sisters are standing in prayer and nonviolent resistance. They are training people to do the same, and make it clear that anyone who wants to come and resist violently will not be doing it in the same spirit as the people. Because the land is sacred, restoring and protecting that land is a sacred act as well, and it is not something to protect with guns and knives, but with singing, dancing and praying.

So here are some ways to get involved.

First, watch this video of Dallas Goldtooth interviewing leaders in Hawaii, so that you can get informed. I found it really, really helpful.

Second, you can donate to the HULI fund to help people get special nonviolence training. This is essential.

Third, follow @HULI on Twitter or join the HULI Facebook group.

If you watched the first video above, there is this idea that for the advancement of science, this telescope must be built on Mauna Kea, and that is it just too bad that it happens to be on a sacred place for indigenous people. Instead of this, we pray that the United States peoples, and I pray that the church, would get behind the people of Hawaii to protect the land.

I pray that the world would see the sacred work of indigenous peoples to protect land as something truly sacred and also necessary for the well-being of all of us. As many have said, there are Standing Rocks all over the world, and this is one of them.

One more that I want to draw your attention to is this group of fabulous women who are building tiny houses to protest the Transmountain Kinder Morgan pipeline. Support their work, friends! Women are strong as hell, right?

Please learn, be informed, and stand with indigenous peoples as we honor Native American Heritage Month.

 

 

I AM WOMAN. HEAR ME MOURN.

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It is no secret that as women, we carry our babies for nine months. We create and nurture and grow life in a womb of water until birth, when we care for them as our newborns and on into childhood.

Some of us, who cannot have children, care for and love the children that are in our lives, the children that become a part of us, whether it’s through a bloodline or not.

Some of us have lost our babies, or we’ve given up children, or we’ve carried some other kind of motherly burden. Some of us have been abandoned by or lost our own mothers, and it bears heavy on us throughout our lives.

We are made to carry heavy loads, and today, we are out-loud-mourning.

Sunday is Easter, and while I’m aware that to many people in this world that is just another Sunday, I gravitate toward the life of Jesus as he speaks into the world we inhabit at this moment in time.

And I think about the woman who bore him.

I think about Mary, who knew from before his birth that Jesus would live an extraordinary life, one that might prove to be difficult. She carried the weight of love for her son, who was also called to be so much more than that.

She watched that son that she bore and carried in her arms and cooked with in her kitchen. She watched him drag a cross through the city and watched as he was nailed to it. She watched as he sighed his last sigh, his last prayer wafted to every corner of heaven around them.

She bore the weight. She mourned.

In the last year, we’ve seen care for the earth and the conversation of climate control come to the surface yet again in our communities, in our nation, in our world. Indigenous peoples’ voices have been heard as we proclaim that it is our honor and sacred duty to care for Mother Earth– her spirit as our very life.

So, I think about the women of Standing Rock, the young woman who began the march for her people, the young woman who said that it was enough, too many indigenous people dying, too many giving up. So they stood and they prayed and they sang for clean water, begging and teaching the world that care for Mother Earth is the greatest honor. And a heavy weight. 

I think of the woman who gave birth in that camp, who named her daughter Mni Wiconi, meaning Water is Life. She says in the video, “I firmly believe our men need our women to stand up and be strong.”

And part of that strength is our ability to speak out of our brokenness.

We share the things we carry. We lament and mourn, and we make way for future generations to do the same.

As women, we carry our mourning, because our bodies and our souls have been taught to carry the lives inside and around us.

We mourn in a world that feels heavy today.

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In the last few months of the presidential election and beginning of Trump’s time in office, I’ve seen women torn from one another in battles over who they voted for and what sect of Christianity teaches them to believe in a certain way.

And I’ve seen other women who quietly hold their faith close to their chest, the ones who are steady and strong, the ones who know that there is life outside of this, outside of our fights and our tantrums.

As women, we carry our churches and our faith places, because we care for the people. We hold them inside our hearts, we work toward wholeness and we pray.

Glennon Doyle Melton recently said in a speech, “The generals of justice have always been and will always be the women of color.”

She pointed out to a room full of mostly white women that to do what is right and needs to be done, the best course of action is to see what women of color have been carrying for centuries and follow them.

This is Sojourner Truth.

This is Maya Angelou.

This is Mary Magdalene.

This is Cleopatra.

This is Hildegard of Bingen.

Her words moved me, because in recent months, I’ve been given a platform for my own voice– for my voice of color, for my voice as a woman. I can speak what I believe and I can call you to meet me here in this space.

But many women do not have that opportunity.

So I mourn that we are not there yet.

I mourn for a world that does not recognize the voices of the women as they should be recognized.

I mourn for the fights that happen over the body of a female, over having choices for what that body should look like and act like and seem like.

I mourn for young indigenous women who disappear, who are raped and attacked because of their culture and skin.

I mourn for the women around the world who have lost their children to war, to starvation, to lack of attention from countries like ours that could have done something better.

I mourn because I am a woman.

I mourn because I carry the world.

I mourn because the rivers run with oil and our children are afraid of the places where they live.

I mourn that we do not understand Jesus as a kind and gentle healer who seems to still turn this world upside down.

I mourn that we do not appreciate the hard and steady work of slowing down and listening.

I mourn.

And yet, I hold myself steady in the reality that I live in the beautiful lineage of all the women who came before me and fought in their mourning.

I live in the long-time shadow of my ancestors, those women who walked the Trail of Death and did not give up along the way; those women who nursed their babies without stopping to rest and who built a life out of nothing.

I live to honor the lives of the women who have placed their trust in me, who have shared their stories with me in hopes that together we build a better future for ourselves and for our children.

For those women, I mourn that we are not there yet, but I hope that one day we will be.

 

 

The Truth About Your Story Is That The World Needs To Hear It

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When I began my blog five years ago, I named it Stories because I needed a space to tell mine, and a space that might encourage others to tell theirs as well.

Many things in my life have changed in these last five years, but the reality that storytelling is necessary in our world hasn’t.

In fact, that necessity has become increasingly more clear.

On March 6th, I hosted an event in my city called DAPL & NATIVE AMERICA: AN EVENING OF DISCUSSION & MUSIC. We gathered at a church that I’ve only been in a few times, an episcopal parish that invited me to take part in an event last November that was a celebration of the earth and a lament that we have not taken care of her.

At that time, things in Standing Rock were particularly heavy, and so in the deepest parts of my heart, I was processing what it means to be a Potawatomi woman in today’s America. So I remembered this church and their support of me as an indigenous person, and I asked them to host my event on March 6th.

I gathered a few speakers, native and non-native, to share their stories, to discuss what it means to care for the earth and take an active role in the community and the world.

For months, I had this event on my calendar, and for the most part, I was ready for it. I was ready to hear the stories of my new friends, who had been to Standing Rock and had things to say about Native America, pipelines and oil, and the treatment of indigenous people.

I wanted a space in which people could listen and learn and have a chance to respond, to bring their own ideas and share their own journey.

For the past five years, I’ve been a sort of public story-teller, and every time I hear another person say to me, “I’ve never been able to tell my story like that,” I know why it’s necessary.

The evening of March 6th was about storytelling, but in a way that I wasn’t at all expecting. It was about my story and my friend Beth’s story, but it became the story of every person in the room: we are called to be good, to be kind, to care for one another and to care for this planet that we call home.

That was it. The simplicity of it astounded me, and the longer we lingered in that space, the more I realized that all of this is about Standing Rock, and it’s about so much more than Standing Rock. It’s about native peoples, and it’s about so much more than just nativeness.

It’s about our identity as human beings, about giving each other the space to share who and where we come from, who we are now, and who we one day hope to be.

A few of the speakers for the event weren’t able to make it, so I struggled with the fear that I’d disappoint my guests, having not been to Standing Rock to share that piece of the evening. If I advertised an event meant to “educate and empower,” was my story enough to do that?

That evening before the event, I posted a picture of myself in my car, sitting in the drive-thru at Chic-Fil-A.

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“I’m ready for this. I think. If you’re the praying type, send one around for me tonight as I speak to a few people about #nodapl,creation care and #nativeamerica ,” I wrote to my social media family on Instagram and Facebook. People began to respond, “We’re praying; you’ve got this; hugs and prayers my sweet, strong friend.”

I carried their words with me into the empty church nave. I carried their words with me into a space filled up with over forty people. I carried their prayers into my own journey.

“Tonight, I want to begin by telling you some of my story,” I began.

“I am a tribal member of the Potawatomi Citizen Band from Oklahoma. I was born in ADA, the capital of the Chickasaw nation, in an Indian hospital. I grew up moving between Oklahoma and New Mexico, where we lived on reservations. My father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs until I was nine years old.

At that time, my parents divorced, and I found myself spending my teenage years in a mostly white, southern Missouri town. Much of the native culture I’d spent my childhood in was a distant memory by the time I graduated high school.

Now, as an adult, I’m asking a lot of questions of my memories and my past.  I’m looking backward, to remember, wondering what I’ve missed all these years and how I can step back into my native culture again. It is important that who I am as a Potawatomi woman be found as I look back and as I look ahead. The more I seek my own identity, it leads me to things like caring for the earth, living a simple life, learning my native language, and practicing native culture with my two young boys.

Because this has been a pretty new part of my journey, the events at Standing Rock brought an awareness to my life that I belong to a family of native peoples, and that it is my duty to create environments in which I can share my own story and the story of other indigenous people in hopes that we all begin to learn the true history of America and the treatment of native people, even today.

Tonight is not only for my own story, but yours, too. What happens in our world today is that we neglect the power of communication, of shared stories. What happened in your childhood that matters to who you are today? Who were your ancestors and what do they teach you about the person you want to become?

Tonight we focus on Native America, what we call Turtle Island. We focus on care for the earth, the danger of fossil fuels and pipelines, why native people fight them and why non-native people fight as well.

I’ve not been to Standing Rock, but we see the pattern of colonial struggle that native peoples have prayed against for years—to take a stand for mother earth and our place here. We honor the water because water is literally life to us, and as a woman, I am to care for the water. I tend to the earth with my hands, I plant seeds and I recycle, I learn my tribe’s language, and I do what I can to make sure I care for what I’ve been so graciously given.

And it’s not only native peoples who have felt this way, and that is why I am so thankful you’re all here. I am so grateful to my indigenous brothers and sisters who are here tonight, and I’m grateful to those of you who are non-natives allies. You give me hope to continue to tell my story. You give me hope to hear your story and to decide where we go from here.

Tonight is about who we are as individuals, and about what we are capable of TOGETHER.

This is the beginning of something, not the end, just as Standing Rock was another beginning, and is not over. All over the country there are people coming together to stand up for clean water, clean air, living environments that are respected and cared for.

The Dakota Access Pipeline set the stage for something to happen that the whole world became a part of. We as native peoples have been pushing and praying and speaking for a long time, but this movement of native and non-native peoples coming together was something so sacred for the world to see, and it’s changing things. My hope is that it continues to spur conversations, that it allows us to break up some of the lies that have been told about native americans and native communities for so long. So I ask that as you go from here, you learn more. You investigate and ask questions, you dig and re-evaluate the things you were taught as a child, you engage cultures that are different than yours. We have a chance to change things, even within our faith communities, to build together and partner with indigenous peoples.

I’m here as native American woman to build this world into a better place with each of you.

I pray that this is the beginning of many conversations. I dream that more spaces like this bubble up all over our city, our country, and our world, and I believe they are. It is what we can do with our power, with our power as people, our power as citizens.”

The rest of the evening was full of singing and sharing. Because two of my speakers couldn’t make it, I opened up the mic for anyone who wanted to share. We sat quietly for a few seconds while the first person gathered their courage to walk forward and speak. She shared a song she’d written for Standing Rock, while her daughter stood behind and looked up at the mother who’d brought her to the event.

My friend Julia shared her desire to cut herself off from investments that support pipelines.

Jonathan shared his experiences as a Navajo man. With tears in my eyes, I listened as he asked what it means to live in a good way, as our ancestors would want us to. We live for simple moments, we are good to each other, we care for each other– this is the native way, he said.

Another woman talked about the division she faces in her own skin, and the difficult task of loving her Creole self and her native self in a way that honors both parts of her heritage.

Each of us, inside of our own skin, empathized with each of those stories. Each of us asked in those moments who we are, why we were there, what these issues have to do with us.

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I should have known then that things would happen this way– so organically. I should have seen it when we split into groups and people shared for nearly twenty minutes who they were and why they’d come.

I should have known when I saw the quiet faces watching me tell my story, every now and then with an approving nod in my direction.

I should have known that these people would be ready, without judgment, to care for one another’s journeys.

What I’d hoped for the evening was so different from what actually transpired, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

At the end of the night, I sang Wade in the Water and an original song that I felt I needed to share with everyone. I described how I’d first found Wade in the Water through a project in sixth grade I’d done on Sojourner Truth, how I fell in love with the song then, and how I’d rediscovered in as an adult.

To end the evening, I said, “I just want you to know that I am okay with spontaneity, and this was perfect! Thank you!” We all laughed and applauded the night in all its rawness, in all its humanity.

Can I describe in words to you what it’s like to gather in a room with people of all different races and say to each other that we are the same?

One of the most powerful ways this can happen is through storytelling, through a judgment free empathy for one another, for the places we’ve been and the hope we hold for ourselves, hope that beats in the hearts in our chests, hope that carries us from one day to the next, no matter who our people are.

We experienced that, and when the night was over, I decided that I will continue to tell my story and invite others to tell theirs. We will continue to gather to listen to one another, to open up the microphone so that someone can come forward and say, “This is who I am and this is who I one day hope to be. Let’s journey together.” This event may have been about DAPL & NATIVE AMERICA, but it was about so much more.

It was about the opportunity to express what it means to be human, to connect to others, to recognize that no matter who our ancestors were, today we have the chance to be good to each other, to make what is wrong right, to use our activism wisely.

It is why I have hope for today’s America. It is why I have hope for my people. It is why I have hope for my own community and the world that my children will one day make their own way in.

We have hope because we have stories.

No one can take those away from us.

 

ROOM AT THE TABLE: the church & Native American spirituality 

“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” –Wendell Berry

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Every Sunday for four weeks in January, I spent an hour in a sunday school class on the third floor of my church building with a beautiful group of people who call themselves pilgrims, unfinished.

They invited me to share my journey with them, particularly the more recent journey of learning about and living into my own native culture and spirituality and how they fit into the church as I see and experience it today.

I began by telling them my story– born in Oklahoma, a member of the Potawatomi Citizen Band tribe.

I told them about my father, who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the sever with native culture I experienced at age nine when my parents divorced and I spent my youth in a small, predominantly white, conservative Christian town. I explained that I’m coming back around to myself again, learning things I never knew were inside of me, experiencing the grace of God in ways I didn’t think possible.

We studied the medicine wheel together, a tool used to understand different seasons and spaces in the life journey.

We discussed Standing Rock and listened to John Trudell’s poem Crazy Horse. When asked about things I couldn’t answer, I had the humbling freedom to say, “I’m not sure, but I’m still learning.”

They were gentle and steady listeners, and we found by week four we’d become comfortable with each other in that story-telling space, a gift recognized in many cultures who pass it along from generation to generation.

We asked again and again, in different ways, how the church could possibly bridge the gap that has been broken with native peoples for so long.

Some spaces within Christianity have done it, but there is still too much misunderstanding and disconnect, and the deeper I lean into who I am as an indigenous woman and worship leader,  the more I need to find spaces where conversations are shaped around this difficult but necessary topic.

Through these four weeks, I’ve learned that it’s possible.

I’ve learned that it’s possible when I spend time listening to the voices of Brian McLaren, Barbara Brown Taylor, Winona LaDuke, Richard Rohr, Randy Woodley, Kent Nerburn and so many others.

Brian McLaren and a few of his colleagues have publicly jumped into the conversation, where it is uncomfortable and painful, but where healing begins.

I found a piece of that healing one afternoon, sitting in a monastery front office with a monk who told me that as painful as my journey will be, I must keep going, because it’s important.

Every one of those moments within the last year have felt like earth-shifting moments, like the people of the world are not only gathering around native peoples at Standing Rock, but they are gathering around me, too, and my brothers and sisters.

They are gathering around creation with a renewed heart and energy to do good to this world that we inhabit.

And in these gathering spaces, it’s not just what they’ve learned listening to me. I’ve answered my own questions in that space. I’ve learned that it is dangerous to tell anyone that experiencing God can only happen within a particular cultural lens. But when we see glimpses of God through different eyes, we realize that the umbrella of God’s love, under which we reside, is a wide and bountiful net that reaches every culture and connects every spirit.

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In this progressive Cooperative Baptist Church where I lead worship, I’ve found support for my journey, encouragement in the difficult task of de-colonizing myself, and I’m so grateful.

But what about the rest of the church? What about the conservative spaces in which I grew up that never speak of native culture, or churches that hold racism as a divine gift?

Can I say for sure that the church is ready to embrace someone like me? Yes and no.

Can I say that I’m ready to engage the church in my own native skin? Yes and no.

And so, the future is held in our ability to be patient with one another, while pushing each other deeply into the reality of the Kingdom.

I dream of walking beside my white brothers and sisters as we learn together what has been forgotten and ignored, and what must be admitted for healing to begin. These are the things I see through both lenses of my life– through my native skin and my white skin, and because of both, I will ask them to kindly hold me steady in the love of Jesus– not the version of Jesus we see as a western religious man, but as he always has been in his ability to love me in my own cultural identity and everyone else in theirs, because he holds it all together under his care.

There in that space of conversation and learning, I believe we see another glimpse into the full otherness that has always been God, Spirit, Life-giver.

There, in those glimpses, we are reminded that we belong, not only to the love of Christ, but to each other, in conversations and around tables with humble and quiet spirits to listen and share, to walk beside, to be a companion, to not be afraid.

In a discussion with a few friends one Wednesday night in that same building, we discussed what “color-blindness” can do to culture in the way of ignoring race altogether, or pretending that prejudice doesn’t exist.

If the church is to get anywhere with people of color, it must learn to embrace color, to learn from it, engage it, and be honest with it.

Like the clergy who came to Standing Rock and denounced the Doctrine of Discovery, we begin conversations around the American table, even around the global table, even on the open plain or by the river.

When we begin those conversations, as I dream of doing, we will find no space to other someone else out of fear, to say that God represents only one culture, or that it’s too late for the church to find and restore what has been lost.

It may start in a Sunday school classroom. It may start with a documentary, or in a coffee shop, or at a protest or in a living room. Wherever it happens, however it begins, I pray the steps forward are brave ones.

When we begin rebuilding what has been broken for so long, I believe the healing will shift the foundations of this benevolently created world, every culture and created thing included in a slow and steady bloom.

 

 

7 GRATITUDES at the end of the week

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There are plenty of aspects to this week that left me tired and fretful, but this morning I remembered this beautiful act of resistance, started by my dear friend, Leanna. For a year, every Friday, she’s resisting by engaging gratitude, seven gratitudes for seven days of the week.

Let me tell you a little about this woman. She will speak and she won’t be silenced, and her voice, I believe, can move mountains. She is the friend that sat with me on our black couch as I unpacked the fresh news that I was going to really, truly, write a book, and she took it and held it and walked the journey with me with courage and grace.

So I follow her lead today, naming seven gratitudes of this week, and we ask you to join us, here in the comments or on Facebook or wherever your social community is, using #sevengratitudes — so what are you grateful for?

Here is what I find:

  1. VOICE. I’ve heard my toddlers protest with thousands of people and that’s no small act. It’s taught me that even the tiniest may speak, whether they are heard or not. Voice transcends boundaries of age, race, sex, religion– it is a powerful tool needed in this world. I’m writing a letter to Donald Trump every week, and this week I used my voice with pen on paper to send a message. It was one of the most powerful moments to put that in the mailbox and send it straight to him, a promise that my voice will not be silenced. fullsizerender-6
  2. THE FLASH. At night, we are tired, and we’re watching this superhero drama The Flash– and what gets to us is the powerful connection between a son and his father, who is wrongfully in prison, and their relationship with the dear friend who raised the boy from childhood. It speaks to relationships, and we could always use more of that, right?
  3. THE RESILIENCE OF MY PEOPLE. Despite everything that’s happened with memorandums or decrees or executive orders relating to pipelines, Standing Rock natives remain strong and peaceful, and I couldn’t be more proud of their prayerful resistance. I’ve never felt more connected, not just to my Potawatomi/Chickasaw/Cherokee people, but to native peoples and non-natives who genuinely care for this earth and her future.tipi
  4. OUR DINING ROOM TABLE. Yesterday, I asked the boys what they wanted to do, anything at all (besides watching cartoons). My oldest chose to color and play with Legos, and my youngest chose the same. We spent the morning at the dining room table, mostly quiet, mostly in our own worlds, but thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. I read to them from Little Men while they played on the living room floor. I watched them again last night at dinner, watched them as they named imaginary superheroes names like “Witch Toot,” laughing their little heads off while my world spun like mad inside me. They had raw and high strung emotions yesterday, because they’ve felt it and seen it on our faces this week. They know what a protest is, they know what is right and wrong, what hurts and heals. I’ve had to explain to them why we might be on our phones/computers more lately, that we’re trying to pay attention to some of the news of this week. They were raw yesterday because we’ve been raw. But that table is a sacred space, a safe space for all of us. I see fire inside of them, the same fire that’s been lit in me. They create the world every single day that they breathe and ask all those questions. They create the world because they are the world, and this old table reminds me of that. fire
  5. MY HUSKY’S HOWL. Any time I hear a siren, no matter where I am in my city, I hear my old husky howl. As small a thing as this is, he is our kind constant, an old, stoic Siberian who watches our world and protects us in it, a kind and gracious comforter.
  6. CANDLE FLAME. I lit candles in my house one morning, sort of holding a vigil of prayer and quiet for this week.  Today we are cleaning, cleaning out what’s old, clearing dishes away, celebrating my husband’s birthday, making space to breathe. And I’ll light my candles and their tiny flames will remind me that light is meant to be kept and shone, and it cannot be put out. fullsizerender-5
  7. MARY. I grew up watching Nick at Night. If you’ve watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show, you’ll understand the significance of my sister naming one of her daughters Rhoda. The Dick Van Dyke ShowI Love Lucy, and others, for some reason, kept me safe in this womb of nostalgia that I couldn’t understand. I watched an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show yesterday afternoon, remembering those moments as a child when everything was breaking around me– I was safe with these women in their homes. As a beautiful soul from this world has gone, so we make way for more beauty to come forth from her legacy.

There now, that was therapeutic for me. So what about you?

Finally, I leave you with a Wendell Berry poem, and pray that you close out your week with less grief and more joy, with less boxed in stress and more of the great outdoors and what she can teach you:

“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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Advent 2016: hope, grief, and Jesus unimagined

Years and years ago, advent came as a long season, generations of waiting and hoping for someone to rescue and repair brokenness.

But in those long and hard years, I imagine there was some anger and some grief, a little hope lost along the way but still held onto in the end.

This Advent feels different for me, as I watch the world, even the world of the church I’ve always known, show itself through different hues. I take the stories I’ve learned as a child mixed with the beautiful stories of my ancestors and other indigenous, stories of who Jesus has always been.

So I see the trajectory of the Christ-child, but the one who is for all people in all places, and not just the one we’ve revered in the white western church.

And I feel the dissonance of our political climate, something I know is foreign to the hope I hold.

So this Advent, I need Jesus to be everything that he is and nothing that I’ve always imagined him to be.

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The miracle of Christ is that he was born once and died once only to live again, and in his living there is always new grace, fresh shalom, a constant journeying into the spirit and heart of God and of God-Made-Flesh-and-Bone.

All those years of waiting had to be painful, but they were needed.

And today, we wait again, and it’s painful, and it’s needed. Our reality must be met with hope, met with peace and love and joy and grace, or the journey becomes blurred or forsaken altogether.

Our world hurts, from the dug up rivers and their protectors to the children of Syria to the oppressed in every corner, even those in our backyard. So Advent becomes an aching and painful grasp onto the chance at things being made new.

If Jesus has the capacity to create renewals of everything in our reality, isn’t it fitting for us to find renewal in our daily journeys?

Let this Advent season mean something different for your journey, and if that means finding the Christ child through your own child eyes, by all means do so.

No journey is wasted, and Advent is all about the long journey to the Christ child and all the journeying after.

But in the meantime, we can’t let our anger or grief dissipate into nothingness, nor do we bury it so deep that it eats away or seeds itself in us as revenge or bitterness.

No.

We take those human feelings and we let them work their way out of us in shalom-ways, in the way of hope, in the way of every good work. That is the way of the peaceful protestor, the way of the rock that stands still and stoic after years and years of rubble around him.

This is the way of Jesus, if the stories ring true, if shalom really is what he intended for it to be.

That is what we hold onto, what Advent gives us as we re-see the Savior child and re-imagine our own journeys of beginning and waiting again.