Experienced Moving

I’ve moved a lot. I change houses like some people change favorite jeans. I know how to set up a kitchen in less than a week, and make a new house feel like a home I’ve lived in for years. 

Moving is not all about houses. It is also about leaving the familiar and moving to the unknown. It’s about changing out communities, finding new friends, and learning new places. It’s about losing and gaining things at the same time. 

My favorite moving day story is from when I was sixteen. We were leaving a place we had been for four years that we didn’t really ever feel we could call home. There are various reasons for that, most of them are not my story to tell, but for my own part I was not leaving any friends my age behind. I was glad to be leaving. 

Our driveway was black sand that ingrained itself in the carpet and any other surface it came into contact with. Each time I got into the family van, I would snap my feet together to shake the sand off my feet so that the sand transfer would be as minimal as possible. When I got in the car that final morning, I intentionally did not shake the sand off my feet, because I had run across the passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus sends out his disciples to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 14, Jesus tells his disciples to shake the dust from their feet if they do not find welcome or listening ears. I didn’t shake the sand off my feet because I refused to say that the blessing of God’s peace was not present in that place, even if I hadn’t encountered peace while I was there. 

On the last day when we were packed up and the house was clean and empty, we went to have breakfast with a couple that were friends with our family. They pulled out all the stops. Biscuits, eggs, sausage, and this amazing concoction of blueberries with sour cream and brown sugar. Don’t knock it until you try it. June is prime blueberry season in south Georgia. That breakfast was the final good memory to have in a place that didn’t have many other good memories. 

Some moves are like that, a time to leave bad memories behind and move forward into new experiences. Some moves are heartbreaking, leaving behind longtime friends and loved spaces for the unknown. Some moves happen because of graduation or getting a new job or moving closer to family. 

I imagine that my perspective on moving is different than most folks, because I grew up expecting to move, and I chose to work in a profession that expects me to move. I never expected to be in the same place for a very long time. I always wonder where the next place we will live will be, even if that new place and new move is a long ways off. It means that my roots don’t get very deep. But it also means that I am always looking to learn something new about the people I meet. I become more curious each time I find somewhere new. I always know that the blessings of God are present even if I don’t yet know where to look. 

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Denying Denial

Denying rights. Denying truth. Denying evidence. Denying facts. Denying time. Denying friendship. Denying entry. Denying access. Denying knowledge. Denying space. Denying grace. Denying sunlight. Denying air. Denying growth. Denying opportunity. Denying sovereignty. Denying safety. Denying food. Denying life.

Denial is always in opposition to something else.

Nearly every single instance of denial I can think of, it is a power in the position of privilege denying something to a person or group with less privilege. The only thing I can think of that is reversing the power dynamic is when protestors physically put their bodies in the way of something that would otherwise destroy something.

The Dakota access pipeline comes to mind. But those protestors are putting their bodies in the way of construction that could well do away with the indigenous peoples’ access to clean water. Someone will not have something in the end.

For Lent, we are called to a time of penitence and self-denial. It is a time of looking at our own needs and desires in an effort to turn them towards the desires of God. It is a holy practice, but the holiness comes from our own self-denial, not a judge that is keeping watch over us forcing us to deny what is good for us. There are no Lent police. (Or if there are, they are not doing it for holy reasons.)

Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I gave something up for Lent. The three years I was in Div school, it seemed I always gave up my health. (Though, thinking about it deeper… I probably should have had an allergy test…) Now, with a toddler, I am constantly giving up my comfort, personal space, time, and even the food off of my plate when in her presence. I have been able to take up some things, some prayer and reading that have added to my observation of this holy season, but it has been minimal at best.

As a parent, sometimes I do have to tell my daughter “no” in order to keep her safe or healthy. There is information I have that she has not learned yet. There are things I know that she cannot yet understand. I am denying her the short happiness in order that she may have a more full life.

But on a large scale, we are not each other’s parents. (Thankfully) My parents are not constantly granting me limits, keeping me from what I want to be doing. (It’d be a little hard since we live two states from each other. And that I am an adult…) As a society we trust each other to live within the bounds that we have created for safe living, but still there are ways that we seek to deny others the lives that they are seeking to live.

When we deny things from others, we rob them of good things. We rob ourselves as we make the world a poorer place. Denial is the opposite of giving. It limits, when we are invited to expand.

As Christians, I think the question we need to ask as we come to the close of this Holy Lent is what practice of denying can we seek to end?

What can we take the lead on and open up, rather than limit?

Where do we need to give of ourselves so that others can flourish?

I’m not sure what the answer is. But I do know that we have plenty of work to do.

Remain

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. […] “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. —John 15:4-5, 9 CEB

Remain.

Simple small voices call us to stay.

When my daughter goes down for her nap, she generally has this moment when she seems asleep and yet she isn’t quite under enough to keep her from wanting me not to leave. I’ll back up, disengaging her latch, and she will whimper and root back onto my breast, not yet ready to give up this form of comfort.

She’s still growing, still used to resting in my arms, and she is definitely ready to let me know if I have backed away too soon.

She remains in my love, even when she finally sinks deep enough into sleep for me to slip away as she hugs Peter Jiwe, her bear that I kept for myself for similar comfort over ten years ago.

Remain.

I’ve been married long enough to have an argument or seven, and last night I was in a funk and so everything my husband did was wrong. He just couldn’t get it right. We argued over the closets… It was not one of my finest moments. I realized, after a while, that I was hearing with the wrong ears, and he needed a little more grace. I apologized, though I did let him know that he shouldn’t try to discuss anything else with me, mostly because I was not ready to listen.

I think I was tired, or exhausted, or touched out, or weary, or all of it.

(But this is not one of those mommy blogger moments in which the evangelical christian holy woman tells you to be a submissive proverbs 31 wife. No. I just realized I had angry ears on. He’s been wrong before and deserved it. In love.)

Remain.

I know I disagree with you over something. We’ve got heads. We’ve got to have something that we don’t fully agree about. But I need to be in relationship with you. I need you to stick around and love me when I’m hard to love. I’m willing to do the same.

I want to bear the fruit of a beloved community with you, wherever you are. We can do this, no matter what comes next week, next month, or next year. Or the next four years. Or the next ten. I’m committed to sticking it out, loving through it, staying even though it is difficult.

Simple small voices call us to stay.

Dispatches During Nap Time: Freedom

I’ve found myself wondering if this is how families felt right before the beginning of our national civil war. Division seems to be inescapable.

I’m waiting for our nation to be the subject of mass sanctions that cut off our supply of cheap clothing (made under unjust systems) and so the government tries to sell us all on thrift shopping, even to the point of stealing the use of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop as propaganda to encourage us to go.

We have gotten to the point that when I wear a pink hat with cat ears, I feel rebellious, and just a little unsafe. Will someone run me and my daughter off the road if I wear it on my walk? How can it be that I feel like I am challenging a community with a pink hat?

For the last three months I’ve woken up wondering what bad news will meet me in the morning, and over the past week, it seems as if our greatest fears have been confirmed.

But see. That’s the crux of it. We are in this current situation because of the mass proliferation of fear. As a nation, we were told we should be afraid, and so using the structure of the current electoral system, this nation elected someone who told us we should be afraid and that he had the answer for our fears.

I’ll give him one thing: he tapped into something and was very persuasive about it.

Because the world does look different. Power is shifting. Freedom is spreading.

But let us not think that freedom is spreading thin. Freedom is not a limited resource. At least, it doesn’t have to be. It is not as if we are spreading freedom thinner and thinner as butter on a piece of bread.

Freedom is the bread itself, rising with the yeast inside it, growing and doubling and tripling in size.

I’ve not talked with enough people in person who do not agree with me. I’ve seen the angry fights on social media, where we are too easily drawn into conclusions without lending dignity to the other.

I want to scream and shout, but shouting is not how to understand someone else.

More people who have done more work with freedom have written better things about liberation than I can. But I wonder if they are hard to hear. I wonder if my words will have a difference when we have been told that the truth and facts are up for debate.

You know, I suppose even I voted based on my fears. I don’t really think I’d considered it before. I knew why the election went the way it did, and I knew that I had a pit in my stomach that only has grown since November 9th, but I never really thought I was voting based on fear.

I woke up that morning with the realization that the nation was not the nation I thought it was. I wonder how many had woken up in the years leading up to November 8th thinking the same thing.

I grieve that we were unable to communicate that freedom does not have to be limited. That freedom is not a resource to be used up, rather it is something that becomes more powerful the more that it expands.

Freedom doesn’t get used up.

We’ve been lied to. Diversity strengthens freedom.

If you are afraid, whether it is because your memories of your childhood are different than what you see today, or because you know that this administration will work to limit your freedom, then know that I am praying for you. I truly am.

And yeah, I don’t want to Jesus Juke this post, but for me, a lot of this is about prayer, and where I need to be praying and marching and standing as we see changes come. I’ve written here about freedom in this nation, but my sole allegiance is to Christ. In the coming months, we are going to see many different people use their faith to say a host of different things that will undoubtedly conflict. We do an incredible job at making our Savior agree exactly with us. That’s called sin. Our goal should be the opposite.

I’m looking for ways that God challenges me and convicts me and creates new spaces in my heart. It can be too easy to pick my favorite bible passage and just use it for the next four years. God’s freedom calls me to something better than that.

God’s freedom invites me to extend welcome and hospitality to people who don’t agree with me, don’t look like me, don’t talk like me, and don’t have the same privilege as me. As a Christian who lives in the United States of America, I’m called to work to extend this radical kind of freedom to everyone, regardless of whether they were born here or believe in the same God as I do.

I have hope that we can be better together. I’m holding on to that hope.

We Are Marching

On Saturday, my family participated in the largest protest in United States history. Joining with over half a million people, (some estimates put us at a million) we flooded the metro system of Washington DC and the world, with at least three million, possibly five million people protesting globally to protect the rights and concerns of women and all who are vulnerable under our current administration.

I took my daughter, who at a year and a half has participated in five different protests, because it is her future that we are creating right now. We streamed into the metro system, and were on the train so long that I needed to feed my daughter. At one moment I had her bottom balanced on the grip of the stroller, as the train stopped and started, while she was latched onto my breast and her legs were looped over my arm as I held onto the handle bar for stability. Generously, one of the women who was sitting close to me offered us her seat so that I didn’t have to balance while breastfeeding.

After spending four hours in the metro system we finally made it onto the street and by chance ran into the friends we had hoped to meet up with. A mom had made us all pussyhats, even one for our daughter, and we wore them proudly. We tried to hear the speakers, but the crush of people was too dense, so the people around us chanted on our own, crying out: “This is what Democracy looks like!” My favorite exchange was all the women shouting “My body, my choice!” followed with the men shouting “Her body, her choice!”

Word eventually got to our part of the crowd that the march could not move because the march route was full of people. We spontaneously filled up the National Mall and marched in front of the White House in an effort to call attention to the fact that women’s rights are human rights.

Gathering together across all seven continents, in over six hundred cities around the world including Iraq, Qatar, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, we joined together to call for Health, Economic Security, Representation, and Safety (HERS).

It was not perfect. There were many more white women who presented in gender conforming ways than anyone else that I saw, though I do admit that I was pushing year and a half year old in a stroller through at least half a million people. I did see at least four generations. I saw black and white and hispanic standing together. I saw women wearing the hijab. I saw many signs saying “The Future is Female.”

I didn’t hear any of the speakers, but I did see a young person holding a sign that they had made, “be nice” and “be respectful.”

I marched for my daughter who will be learning right and wrong in a world where

lies are called “alternative facts.”

I marched for Raquel who was my roommate in college after her first roommate called her “the girl with the green card.”

I marched for my friends Kate and Kathryn that their marriage may still be legal.

I marched for Maureen who I befriended while I was serving as a volunteer through the United States Peace Corps in Kenya, who is a nurse now raising her daughter alone.

I marched for Maureen’s daughter, that she will not be a victim of Female Genital Mutilation, because even though the Masaai women started “only drawing blood, not cutting entirely” the practice is still horrendous.

I marched for Amanda, who has been working at Wal-Mart for fifteen years and still makes less than fifteen dollars an hour.

I marched for the men who are told that they cannot show emotion or will be called less than whole.

I marched for women who only make seventy percent of what men make.

I marched for black bodies who are killed and feared for existing.

I marched for Syrian refugees who have no home to return to.

I marched for people who will die because they will lose health insurance.

I marched because bridges are better than walls.

I marched for you, even if you don’t think you need it.

I marched because my privilege allowed me to do so, and I want to bend the world towards justice, one step at a time.

 

Photo Credit: Chuck Geary