Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Own Advent Conspiracy

For the past two Christmases I've been involved in the Advent Conspiracy, a movement inspiring compassion, not consumption, over the holidays. My church has done a lot to bring inspiration and practicality to this ideal, by providing several ways to donate money to Living Waters International. This organization builds and repairs wells to provide clean water to communities all over the world.

Last year, I felt convicted to spend half what I would normally spend on gifts and donate the other half to Water. This year, I felt like giving a small, set amount to water and being intentional with my gift-giving. I'm a big believer in Second Corinthians 9:7, "Each person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

So here's what's happened.

Last year, I gave one donation in honor of my office and gave everyone water bottle labels designed by the kids at my church. This year, one of my co-workers donated money for Water in honor of all her cousins.

My mother-in-law to be said she was inspired by the way my fiance and I do Christmas, and has decided to make it a tradition to donate to a different cause in my name each year. Given my heart for empowering women, she chose the Darfur Stoves Project this year, which provides stoves to refugee women that require 75% less fuel. This means they have to venture into the dangerous world outside the refugee camp much less.

My grandmother told me today that she and my grandfather spent their Christmas gift money for each other on a hefty food and supplies donation to Interfaith Ministries. My grandparents also requested that their children give a donation to a charity rather than give them gifts. My parents chose the 1000 Wells Project through Blood Water Mission, which also provides clean water. This was significant because my grandparents attend church with a man who owned a successful contracting business and gave it all up to work for Living Waters. My grandmother had tears in her eyes when she told me all this. They are fairly well off and could have afforded gifts in addition to their donation, but it just wasn't about that.

I did almost all of my Christmas shopping at Ten Thousand Villages this year. It's a fair trade organization that sells the most beautiful, handmade goods from everywhere. I have to admit I was so overwhelmed by the peaceful experience I had shopping there that I got teary more than once. Seeing Nativity scenes from all over the world was truly inspiring, recognizing how the story of God transcends culture.

Some say that giving is like a chain; I think it's more like a spiral. Because it all comes back to me in such miraculous ways. Three women have it a little easier in Darfur refugee camps, some children have the chance at life because of clean water, and a few artisans got a fair wage for the work, all indirectly because of me. This is why I believe in the miracle of Christ, because we are all so connected and so equipped to change and inspire and love.

It is by far the greatest conspiracy.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Advent One/Two

Listening to the Spirit move where I've never seen the Spirit move... It's everywhere and I feel this subtle awakening in all the parts of my soul. Because I remember Your simple entrance into the world and I am changed. It's a wonder that You understand the likes of me when You are so much more. But somehow that makes me everything, it makes me new and redeemed and whole. And it makes You bigger than I can imagine.

Recognizing the painfully simple miracles of my everyday, and I hope.

Savor the color of angels,
Taste the water of Life,
and breathe freely.

Reach deeply into our souls and bring healing into our brokenness.

I will Rejoice, for my Savior has come to change everything.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Checking In

Taking the pieces
And making them one;

The cyclical pattern
Of all my anxiety
Rests calmly when I
Cast them on You.

Coming to know all the
Important entities of
Life and love and
Who You are.

And I still fret about
About the unknown
And the uncomfortable...

Adventurous as I am
I hesitate to let go,
To climb forward,
To change.

Checking out to fix it
All in isolation,
Where I make no sense
Of anything;

And I now choose to
Check back in
And untangle the ugly
Process of being solitary.


And thanking.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mon Meilleur Ami (My Best Friend)

I have to thank my grandparents for suggesting I watch the French film Le Valet, because it introduced me to the two actors in this charming (that's right, charming) French movie Mon Meilleur Ami. The sentiment is reminiscent of Nick Hornby's About a Boy, as it explores the loneliness of isolation and the joy of finding community.

Francois, a successful art dealer takes a bet suggested by his partner that he must introduce her to his best friend in ten days. He essentially has no friends, and can't even connect to his own daughter or girlfriend in any real way. He meets a sociable cab driver whom he pays to teach him how to interact with people. As you might imagine, the two become friends. However, the plot takes a turn when Francois uses Bruno to win the bet and the two part ways in the wake of betrayal. (Don't worry, there's a happy ending.)

It just got me thinking about our basic need for friendship. Nothing too spectacular or profound, just how we need to connect to one another. Bruno tells Francois at one point that a friend will go the limit, but he can only understand that in monetary terms. He has the hardest time just having a conversation, or meeting with someone without a business reason. Friendship is sometimes frivolous, and it should be. It's also comforting and redeeming and all those things we can't always find in ourselves.

Like I said, nothing spectacular, just a good reminder of something so basic it's easy to forget.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I started writing a really self-reflective post about getting older and being young, but instead I decided to cite some random things I have observed/experienced in the past few days. This randomness makes me love my neighborhood and school even more:

* In Third Ward, a man on a pedicab (you know, like a bicycle rickshaw) with a sign on the back that read "Tour de Hood"

* One of my women's studies students expressing her interest in becoming a trial lawyer at 80 for the express purpose of beating up on young, male lawyers in the courtroom

* Walking my fiancee's dog to the video store and letting her run around inside the store without a leash

* A woman brushing her teeth at the bus stop

* Showing the new IT girl the jock strap chandelier in my office

I wish I was creative enough to come up with this stuff on my own! It's a good thing my life holds so much inspiration.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


My great-grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. She'd been sick with various ailments for a few years, and spent the last few months in bed. I saw her this summer and said my good-byes then, so I didn't travel with the rest of my family to Alabama for the funeral. She was 99; lived a great, long life with lots of compassion and quite a family legacy.

Her death is affecting me differently than I thought it would. I feel as though a part of my childhood died with her. No more summers catching fireflies in jars and sitting on the porch swing and clogging my arteries with Southern cooking.

Simultaneously, I'm getting married next summer. Societal expectations assume that marriage equals growing up. You can be 21 and married and a grown-up, but 35 and single and not a grown-up. Explain that to me. So whatever societal constrictions I fight against, I still feel them.

I don't want to be a grown-up (why do you think I've stayed in school so long?). I don't want to be a kid, either. My mom says 27 is a great age because I can enjoy the benefits of being young and the adventure of growing older. Or something like that. She says a lot of smart things that I try to let seep into the way I live. My dad says I should have a daughter my age getting married, that would make me feel like a grown-up.

Being engaged is terribly fun, but it presents a transition in identity that I could not have anticipated. How do I go from being one (me) to being one (us)? My sister says to think of it as adding to yourself, not taking away. Becoming one does not indicate losing yourself, and my partner is my best ally in the process.

But there's still a sort of mourning that happens... now I know why historically and in many cultures the women take the bride-to-be away for a week and really embrace that transition. I was a pretty content single woman, and now I'll be a content married woman. It's a lot to take in.

I think the reason I loved the fireflies so much was because they looked like stars, yet I could catch them. I could put them in a jar and make them my own personal miracle. So I'm taking them with me into my adulthood, or maybe I'll say growth journey. Because childhood miracles sustain and inspire us as we move forward, synthesizing all the parts of our complex and beautiful existence into one.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why I Love Kids' Church

The children at my church are really cool. They come from pacifist homes and are more articulate and creative than I am. And so funny. Here are some of my favorite kids lines from this Sunday:

From a 6 year old: Do you know what Turkish medieval music sounds like? I can't show you because I don't have the instrument, but it's kind of like a bagpipe and flutes.

From a group of boys, after they pinned my fiance to the ground and pelted him with fake food: You are going to die from rotten death mold! (Apparently the pacifism hasn't quite caught on with them)

From a 3 year old: Cute boots! Mine are broken.

From a 4 year old: Hey! You are not the boss, you can't be... because you're a girl!
From a 7 year old in response to this comment: Dun dun dun... (think the music on movies that signals impending doom)

(And don't worry, I set him straight... and so did his mom when she came to pick him up)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Feminist Fiancee

Well, it's official... I'm engaged! To hear how it happened and be apprised of our journey as an engaged couple, check out the blog my fiance started. It's tongue-in-cheek and completely adorable. I'll be contributing as well.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Love Your Body Day, October 18

Love Your Body

Whoever said feminists haven't done anything good for the world?

While I disagree with some of the politics of the National Organization for Women, they put forth a lot of initiatives that no one else does. The Love Your Body Campaign is one. "Give me your curves, your wrinkles, your natural beauty yearning to breathe free." Amen, sista!

Body image is a huge issue for women and men. We say that so often I seldom stop to think about it anymore. A few minutes of advertising analysis and you realize how screwed up the media is (check out the "Positive Ads" and "Negative Ads" on the website). Ads are over-sexualized, terribly focused on the superficial, and not to mention confusing.

All that to say, this is a good reminder to slow down and remember that "the King is enthralled by our beauty." I believe wholeheartedly that God intricately knit us together and made us unique and stunning. Our bodies are temples.

So exercise, eat right, take pride in the way you look... not because you hate your body but because you LOVE your body!

I leave you with the newest Dove Campaign for Real Beauty video. Dove launched this campaign after conducting a study in which 2% (that's right, two percent) of women said they thought they were beautiful. Sure, it's a clever marketing strategy, but I really applaud them. They have lots of educational outreach and good data to back up their media.

Remember... celebrate on October 18!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Love Never Gives Up

"Love Wins" has been the theme of my church community for the past year or so. It reminds me that love never fails, the oft-quoted verse in I Cor. 13. That mantra means several things to me presently...

1) Most importantly it means that God, who is Love, never gives up on me. That might sound cliche, but it is so not cliche when you are doubting if God has any idea what He's doing with your life or the world, as I have often questioned lately. My health has dipped for longer than normal and even when I have been on the edge of totally isolating myself because of it, I have this really clear sense that God won't let me fall.

2) Love Wins also means that love triumphs over the strife and oppression in the world. Oppressors need to be loved, too. Victims need love. And I need to love them all, especially when I feel like I can't end slavery, or fix my foster brother, or stop discrimination, etc., by mere force of will. Love is where it all begins, out of deep compassion for the souls who suffer, and aligning myself with the high and the lowly, to love in an unconditional and profound way that I am only capable of doing with the full capacity of Christ's love.

3) And finally it means that in all my human relationships, love will never fail. That means that love hasn't failed in the relationships I have cut off or have been cut off from. And it doesn't and won't fail through all the changes and difficulties and nuances of my current and future relationships.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Head + Heart

The unfortunate nature of the human race is that we are terribly adverse at communication. I'd say most of the time I'm struggling to be heard--partly because I feel ignored or partly because I just can't express what I mean and feel. Thinking simultaneously with your heart and your head, and then trying to present all that in an honest and honoring way, is really tricky.

God is a God of order and of peace, not of confusion. So when I get so horribly confused and frustrated about the disorder of human communication, I have to remember that it's truly not God's plan. My default actions run in this order: fix, fight, flight. If I can't make everything better, I'll really fight to be heard. And if none of that works, I bail. I retreat physically or emotionally. While all of these responses are sometimes necessary and appropriate, it's not the pattern I want to follow every time I have something to express.

Peace, affirmation, and confidence should be the cornerstone of my approach to communication. If all that crumbles, then so be it, but at least I'm starting out with good intentions. Building each other up, creating spaces where it's safe to be who we are, and really listening to one another are so important.

As I strive to be more in touch with my own heart, I see my communication patterns becoming more complex in all areas of my life. A meeting with my dissertation adviser, a phone call from my parents, a comment from a pastor, a conflict with my partner... all somehow elicit really huge and emotional responses from me. So much so that I don't know what to do with it.

It would be easier if I just sought to live up to the stereotype that women are too emotional to deal with things and to irrational to be rational. But that's not me... I'm horribly rational and horribly emotional. So I can analyze (or over-analyze) every situation and then let my heart overflow about it. It's just trying to integrate my head and my heart in a way that doesn't completely overwhelm me that seems impossible. I'll get there, I just don't know when.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not for Sale

Sunday I attended a presentation entitled The Concert to End Slavery, an awareness raising event by the Not For Sale Campaign. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt like I had a concrete opportunity to be effectively involved in the fight against modern slavery.

If you are thinking to yourself, "I thought slavery ended after the American Civil War," you're not alone. As a historian and teacher, I even believed slavery to be extinct. I knew workers were exploited and assumed some women were forced into prostitution, but never entertained the thought that slavery might be an actual evil still confronting the world today.

About four years ago, a high school student in my church told me about an article she read about the millions of slaves still captive. I took in the information, reasoned it away (she must have misunderstood, the article must be talking in metaphors, etc.), and moved on with my life. Then slowly I became confronted with the realities of sex slavery, human trafficking, child soldiers, forced labor, and other forms of human captivity. And here's the worst part: it's going on in the U.S. In mass quantities. In massage parlors and private homes and karaoke bars and all sorts of places. I could probably point to five places on my street.

I got more information. And I got more overwhelmed.

Any guesses how many people are slaves today? 27 million. That's 3.5 million MORE people than live in the state of Texas. It's mind-boggling. Nearly 80 percent of these slaves are women and children. What do we do with those kinds of statistics?

We use our skills. We funnel our despair into action. We pray for opportunities. It's been four years for me, trying to make sense of it, trying to find a way to help. It all converged on Sunday night. I met two students who want to help and a couple already doing work to identify trafficking rings and sites. I'm in a small group that just spent the whole summer discussing topics of social justice and the Bible's call to action and compassion. I work in an activist-oriented academic office at a major university and serve as an officer for a student organization that could become anything we want it to be. I'm good at research, organizing and motivating people, and disseminating information. I'm well-versed in my responsibilities as a Christian to be a part of the liberating work of Christ (with divine help), in feminist theory, in historical activism, and in the importance of boundaries when you're involved in social justice.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to ask me in 2 months how it's all going. In 6 months, in a year, in 5 years. By then I could be on my way to a country where trafficking is a major industry or I could be teaching students how to get involved in global abolitionism. Or I could have forgotten about this moment, when it all seemed so important and so necessary and so doable.

I always thought that if I knew about slavery in the early U.S. or knew about the Holocaust, I would oppose it and do what I could to end it. So here I am, fearfully aware of genocide and slavery, and I'm ready to be an abolitionist. I'm going to start small, I'm going to pace myself. But I'm ready.

And God does not call the equipped... God equips those He calls.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives..."
(Isaiah 61:1)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Thanks to the always-free Miller Outdoor Theater, college night at Robertson Stadium, and season tickets at the Wortham Theater, I saw the Dominic Walsh company, the Dynamo, and the Houston Ballet this weekend for the low, low price of $22.50. One of the many reasons I love Houston: it has so much to offer and if pursued creatively, it's totally affordable to do cool things.

I love modern dance for a lot of reasons, primarily because it's out of the box. Half the time I'm scratching my head trying to figure out what it's trying to say, but it's always intriguing. Dance should say something. It should be happy and sad and political and emotional.

Speaking of political and emotional, this was my first time at a live MLS game, and it was a blast. Soccer is a lot more suspenseful than most sports, in my opinion. And although my boyfriend spent half the time explaining the game to me (I didn't actually realize they switched goals after the break), I think I mostly understand it. Just like people often don't see the athleticism in dance, they often fail to see the artistry in sports. Most of the fans may have cared about the score, but I kept noticing the "choreography" of the footwork and collisions and jumps.

And you just have to love classical ballet. If you don't love it, I'm sorry. It's so beautiful and refined and makes you want to be a dancer when you grow up, no matter how old you are. At least go see the Nutcracker this Christmas, people.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Baby Fever

I want a baby.


I want attention.

Let me back up...

This seems to be the year of all my friends having babies or getting pregnant, or even thinking about second kids. It's so much fun to be with them in the process and help them welcome new life into the world. I think kids are awesome but am personally years away from being ready for my own. I know I want to adopt, and I would like to experience pregnancy and childbirth.

But what I'm getting at is this: There are two events in a woman's life that garner the most attention--engagement and childbirth. Sure, people get excited when you graduate college but you don't have squealing women gathering around to look at your diploma like they would an engagement ring.

These two events should well gather celebration, and large amounts of it. But let's be honest, it makes the rest of us feel like we have nothing going on in our lives. When I'm in a group of pregnant and/or engaged women, my dissertation research just doesn't seem that exciting.

I think we should celebrate everything about our lives. I have a friend who throws a party once per year to celebrate being single and on her own. Beautiful. And why not commemorate the days that we barely make it through, rejoice in the ordinary, exult in the unnecessary? We should help all our sisters delight in the place in life in which they are, sans engagement ring or minus baby, or whatever.

So next time you see me, please congratulate me for all the extraordinary yet societally insignificant things in my life. That would be nice.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Benediction

Such a clever marriage of extremes,
God becoming one with us.
Remember your Beloved,
Remember who bought you,
Who made you,
Who loves you.
Come awake and be inspired,
Cling to the hope that is
Christ alive in you.
Crawl under His shadow
And Rest
And Weep
And Be.
The Liberating King is your Lover,
Worth, and
So be free.
God's covenant is your redemption.
Let your broken heart
Drive you to hope,
And to join His liberating work.
The King is enthralled by your beauty,
Honor Him,
For He is your Lord.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How to Make a Home 101

I read this article a few days ago about Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:
One of the nation's largest Southern Baptist seminaries, the school is introducing a new, women-only academic program in homemaking _ a 23-hour concentration that counts toward a bachelor of arts degree in humanities. The program is aimed at helping establish what Southwestern's president calls biblical family and gender roles.

I just perused the seminary's course listings focusing on women and they include, among others, "Engaging Women in Ministry," "Wife of the Equipping Minister," and "Intro to Women's Studies." The Women's Programs description states that it desires to equip women for woman-to-woman teaching and to enhance their gifts "within the boundaries of biblical priorities."

I know some good people at Southwestern, and truth be told I know relatively nothing about the seminary apart from its conservative reputation. So I'm just going to comment on the surface data I've presented here.

Part of me thinks... you want to take a homemaking course? Sure, go ahead. Maybe if I'd had some meal preparation classes I wouldn't be so bumbling in the kitchen. Learning to sew sounds fun. And I liked child psych in college so I could use a couple more hours on it. Women have long asserted their own agency in the domestic sphere so empowering them to do it better wouldn't be all bad.

And part of me is just annoyed. Things like this are precisely why I refused to learn to cook. This is why, historically, women were encouraged to go to college (see Mona Lisa Smile), to learn to be good wives and mothers. It almost seems insulting.

Women who attend this seminary know what they are getting into; it's not like Southwestern hides its philosophy on gender roles. I'm a feminist, right? I believe in choice, right? So if a woman wants to go to SBTS to "find genuine freedom and real empowerment", I should be ok with that, right?

The core of my complaint really comes from one place: Telling women who to be. If a woman chooses to take a homemaking course because she believes it is good and wants to be there and be the kind of person they seek to turn out, then great. And i really mean that. But what about the woman who is discovering, while at a conservative seminary, that she has gifts of public ministry (and not just to women)? And she's being told to learn... clothing construction?

(And as a side note: Why not offer this course to men, or make it coed?)

I fully believe that Christ, not our gender, defines us. Gender is a gigantic part of identity but it doesn't make us who we are. Identity is a process and our individual giftings and callings make it that much more complex. We should let God define who we are, that's what I'm saying...

Monday, July 30, 2007


Tonight I unexpectedly saw my foster brother, of all places, at my church. I've been at my church every Sunday night for the past four years and have never seen him there. But there he was, sitting in the coffee shop with his new girlfriend and a member of yet another music venture. He said he would stick around until the end of the service but he left. I can say with certainty that this was not on my emotional agenda for the day.

He came into my family's life 12 years ago and lived with us for over half that time. It's enough to become very attached, and very disappointed when his life didn't go in many positive directions. It's been quite an intense experience, him being a part of my family's life. I have a lot of good memories, but I finally had to get to a place where I let him go.

And that plan works most of the time, because he never calls or answers my messages. He lives 5 minutes from me but never suggests we meet. The last time I saw him was my sister's wedding--which he almost missed--four months ago.

But every so often, maybe twice a year, he gets lonely or needs something and reaches out. He has a talent for making me feel like it's my fault we never communicate. I'm not sure how much I have to offer or gain from the relationship; I just know that I love him as much as I can. God gives us the capability to love in ways we usually don't understand.

It could be complete coincidence that I saw him tonight, but I really don't feel like it is. What it is, I'm not sure. It pains me to see such little life in his eyes, to read between his words and see his loneliness and unhappiness. But I don't know how to help him, and that almost hurts worse.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sex Trafficking

This summer my small group is discussing social justice themes in the Bible. Each week we take a different, current issue and talk about verses that inspire compassion and action in response to them.

This week I talked about sex trafficking, a heartbreaking "industry" found in all parts of the world. I was heartened, however, when I came across these resources and organizations seeking to bring end to this slavery. The last is a local organization.


Pray for the victims, captors, and abusers, and pray for the systems that allow this atrocity to break down.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Living Organically

I am in the process of converting much of what I use and eat to organic products. It is primarily a health decision (and at the strong encouragement of my doctors), but has become a more (w)holistic way of approaching life for me.

It makes me question everything... Where do my clothes come from, my carpet, my purses, my milk, crackers, sugar? We live in a world that allows us to be so disconnected from all the things we use and ingest. I can tell you for certain, for example, that were I forced to kill my own food, I would be a vegetarian. But I want to really think about what all this is, why I have it, and what needs to change.

Everything seems to be at odds. I buy clothes from the Gap made by maquiladoras and/or children in sweatshops, yet I champion children's and workers' rights and protection. I eat food in excess but click on the Hunger Site everyday. I put on a ridiculous amount of skincare products and makeup but have no idea where it comes from, what's in it, and worse yet I say I don't want to be defined by rigid gendered expectations.

Part of me wants to just start over... buy a plot of land in Amish country, build a simple green house made of cork and recycled bottles, and farm my own food. But I also don't want to be disconnected from the world at large. Globalization has had many harmful effects, but it helps us better connect to our suffering brothers and sisters. Genetically modified food might be inferior for me, but may provide food to someone who has none.

I don't know what the answers are, but taking small steps is pushing me in the right direction (I hope).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Patriotism ala Switchfoot

Entropy and Aching
Where have we been aiming?
Everything is fading out, fading out
We are the faded, splitted, and sedated
Everything is fading out, fading out

A pledge allegiance to a country without borders, without politicians
Watching for my sky to get torn apart
We are broken, we are bitter
We're the problem, we're the politicians
Watching for our sky to get torn apart
C'mon and break me
C'mon and break me

Switchfoot, "Politicians"

Like a puppet on a monetary string
Maybe we've been caught singing
Red, white, blue, and green
But that ain't my America,
That ain't my American dream

I want out of this machine
It doesn't feel like freedom

This ain't my American dream
I want to live and die for bigger things
I'm tired of fighting for just me
This ain't my American dream

Switchfoot, "American Dream"

Sunday, July 01, 2007


On the imprints
Of my unspoken words-
Daring to reclaim
The underneath parts
As I look to You
For hope and
For action.
Waiting for You
To come save me,
Renew my mortal mess
And move beyond.
And yet You move
In such subtle ways
That I cannot see You,
Wrestling with myself
In all the unseen parts.
Where You're moving,
And I'm not,
And that's the way
You want it...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Fountain

I usually see cool indie movies several months after the buzz has died down. It's the same with clothing trends... By the time I can actually accept the trendiness and convince myself to buy something, it's already out of style.

But I loved this movie, because it was bizarre and complicated and beautiful and confusing, much like my life. (And, as a side note, instead of CGI, most of the backgrounds were composited images taken of chemical reactions in petri dishes. I never would have guessed it wasn't computer work.) It's a beautiful and tragic love story between a husband who is a doctor making progress on a cure for cancer, and a wife who is dying of cancer.

There is one scene in particular that I can't get over. She is in the bathtub (this is very tastefully done) and he is outside the tub bathing her. She confesses that her pain has gotten worse, and his first reaction is to call the doctor. She stops him, attempting to explain how she feels inside as well, to explain the changes that he can't see. He fails to understand. She kisses him, and eventually pulls him into the tub, fully clothed. He wants to fix the problem, she wants him to struggle with her, to come to where she is.

It's one of the great mysteries of life, how to struggle with those around us. The question extends from people suffering in places I haven't even heard of all the way to those closest to us. And I believe I will wrestle with this for a very long time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

I am home from my 2,000 mile driving tour of the Urban South, with a mountain of research, an allergic reaction to moldy documents, and quite a bit of exhaustion.

Friday my boyfriend met me in Atlanta and we toured the World of Coca Cola... or, as we like to call it, the shrine of American economic global imperialism. It was kind of like Disneyland, only all about Coke. Then we drove to Memphis, and let it be known that Atlanta traffic is worse than Houston (not sure how that is possible, particularly since Atlanta is a quarter of the size).

We spent the weekends visiting with friends who may as well be family, that I hadn't really seen in 2 years. We went to the zoo, Beale Street, and the Civil Rights Museum, like any good tourists.

I remembered at the beginning of my trip that one of my research subjects has papers in Little Rock, so we stopped there on the way home. There was a gold mine of correspondence, in particular.

My brain is still swimming from everything I encountered and thought about on the road, particularly in regards to how I need to better connect the "ivory tower"-ness of my dissertation project with the actual reality of daily life. If race and gender issues are what I'm trying to uncover in my research, I need to do me more intentional about being a part of the process of unification and equality. More on this later, I'm sure.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How to Make a Good First Impression

I should have learned by now that eating while driving is not a good idea. Especially when on the way to an appointment at one of the most elite medical schools in the country. I spilled oil and vinegar all over my skirt and tomato all over my shirt, which I didn't realized until I got out of my car in the parking garage. My suitcase full of clothes was of course back where I'm staying, and I didn't have too many options. My plan was to find a bathroom and try to scrub it off, then wait until my clothes dried to go in.

But when you exit the parking garage you have to sign in as a visitor, and they call someone to let them know you are there, and that person has to let you in especially. I kept my hands and arms awkwardly crossed until I had to shake hands. In most archives, you go to one room and sit there with the documents. But of course, here the archivist was really nice and walked me around to introduce me to people and get the documents I needed. So from now on I'll be that researcher with the stains on her clothes. Excellent.

After spending a few hours at Morehouse, I slipped into Ebeneezer Baptist Church just before it closed. Three generations of Kings, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., preached there. I got choked up sitting in the pews, looking at the stage, imagining the grassroots change that developed from those people. Sure Dr. King's sermons were motivating, but he had to be motivated by his congregants, the people who kept coming and kept hoping.

And it makes me sad that the Church is not known for being the genesis of social justice. We recreate patterns of oppression in our local congregations and ignore the problems of our brothers and sisters worldwide. I am fortunate to be a part of a church that is active, but we could do so much more.

The Center for Non-violent Social Change next door feautures exhibits on King, Corretta Scott King, Ghandi, and Rosa Parks. I am increasingly impressed with Ms. King. I knew that she was the first woman to preach a statutory service at St. Paul's cathedral in London, but was unaware she filled in to speak in her husband's absence so often. And she spoke and led so much on her own.

"I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills." --Ghandi

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

One Archives' Trash is My Treasure

In case you are keeping score, in the last week I have been to six cities/towns, stayed with three different sets of people I didn't know beforehand (all of whom were quite lovely), and driven the amount of hours that equal one day. In less than 200 miles, my odometer will roll to the 100,000 mile mark. And in case you are wondering, I am very tired. And very happy. And a little homesick for the people I love and my own space.

Anyway, when I got to the AUC here in Atlanta today, the archivists informed me that I was quite lucky, as they were literally about to throw the files away when I set up the appointment a few weeks ago. I'm not sure how I feel about researching a topic that others feel is worthy of the garbage. The records were inconsecutive and indescriminate, and probably a mystery to those not familiar with the organization. But they were useful to me. Not as useful as I had hoped, but useful nonetheless. They are keeping the files specifically for my future use, and promised to hand them on to me if they ever near the garbage again.

I debriefed in Grant Park, feeling the need to walk and sit outside. After so many hours in a car and stuffy archives I am really craving the outdoors. And at the moment I am craving sleep.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Ah, I love the smell of moldy documents in the morning. Seriously, my hat goes off to the brave men and women who work as archivists and inhale all that dust and mustiness day after day. Today involved more digging, lots of photocopying, some discoveries of bios, and of course laughing at the '70s haircuts in the yearbooks.

I finished early enough to go to the Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson's home. I sincerely missed my family as it reminded me of our many vacations to historic homes and battlefields throughout the continental United States. Not to mention my parents pulled over EVERY time they saw a historical marker. So what do I choose to do with free time in a new city? That's right, mom and dad, I blame you.

I'm always interested, though, after spending God knows how many years studying history, at how historic sites and museums portray their heroes. For example, while the site dealt fairly with the slave issue, I saw not a word mentioned about Jackson's Indian removal policy. But did you know he imported wallpaper from France and had 37 foster children?

I walked around downtown for a while... Nashville may well be one of the few places on earth that begins live music in multiple venues on one street at 10:00 AM. And I had to laugh when I drove down Music Row and saw just as many lawyer offices as I did recording labels.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Life is a Highway?

Well I thought my visit with Southern relatives was complete after a big breakfast (including biscuits and grits) and a knitting lesson. I will not, by the way, be joining the feminist knitting revolution any time soon. Even when I got the hang of it, it drove me mad.

But alas the battery died in my car. With the collaboration of my great uncle, a boat battery charger, and Carl's garage my car came back to life and put me on the road to Nashville just in time to sit on the freeway for an hour. Let me just say it is not a good thing when an 18 wheeler catches fire and burns up completely (I think the driver got out in time). Then I hit a rainstorm, etc., etc. Needless to say I lost some research time.

The archives at Meharry are a glorified closet but have good information. One thing I have realized, though, about choosing a topic in which the subjects experienced racism and sexism is that the sources reflect their experience. The information is there but it requires a great deal of digging. The woman helping me seemed as excited as I was to uncover some of the data on women.

I finished the day with a walk around Centennial Park and a few hours writing and relaxing at a local coffee shop. I'm staying with my roommate's brother's best friend's fiance's sister. Yeah, I'm confused too.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I am part of a generation and culture who is increasingly disconnected from extended family. I didn't grow up near my grandparents or any other family for that matter, so I didn't have the luxury of playing with cousins or aunts and uncles dropping by. I was also never good at keeping in touch with my "greats", apart from an annual Christmas letter and picture.

But they all love me to pieces. I have visited with four different great aunts this weekend. One is completely dedicated to taking care of my sweet great grandmother, who lives with her. Her main support system is a dedicated group of sitters and she enjoyed having me around. Two are sisters who took me to dinner, where they antagonized each other like teenagers, bugged me about getting married, and had me laughing with their stories. Back at her house, one of the sisters talked to me like I was her best girlfriend. The fourth great aunt lives with her husband and was tickled to death (I've been in the South just a few days and listen to me!) to take me to brunch and cook for me. She considers me a grandchild as she has no children of her own. I am leaving here with Christmas ornaments from her collection and any books I want from her shelf.

I struggle to make connections sometimes... To listen to their conceptions of race, to bridge the technology gap (one aunt was amazed when I showed her a picture slideshow, ordered her an out of print book, and found a local store where she could buy her favorite shoes by using what my uncle called my "miracle box"), and to explain the complexities of my own life while trying to understand theirs. But somehow I understand my own life better by being with them. I can't really explain it. I came from them for a reason.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I'm taking the weekend to spend time with extended family in Alabama. I have a lot of relatives here with "great" before their title. Driving through Mississippi then rural Alabama I had waves of nostalgia. Summer visits as a kid involved eating "dinner" at noon and then eating it all again for "supper," catching fireflies, fried okra, mosquitoes, southern accents, and small towns.

I am fortunate to have known three of my great grandmothers. Two passed on a few years ago and the other just turned 99. She was spry and with it for most of my life so it was a bit of a shock when her health deteriorated in the past months. I remember climbing in her lap as a kid, watching the birds from her sunroom, and, most fondly, sitting on the porch swing with her like there was nothing else going on the world. She's the sweet Southern woman who loved everyone and told them all to go to church. Most of them did.

When I arrived tonight I was glad she recognized me. Every time I came to her bedside I received a big smile. She laughed when I told her it's ok if she doesn't remember my name, just remember that I'm her favorite great granddaughter. I fought back tears for the first hour I was here, it was hard to see her like this. At one point she told me she's sorry she's sick and cried. I'm sorry too...

As I held her hand I thought about how I want to be 99 looking at three generations ahead of me, to have loved and lived such a full life. She's still beautiful and has quite a spirit despite her health and age. I am grateful to be connected to her.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Archive Dust

Day Two at the Amistad Research Center proved productive. I went through eight boxes of unprocessed files so it was quite a feat. One of the boxes was the jackpot--30 years of the organization's quarterly publication. It's a shame they are sitting in a box.

I decided today I am not organized enough to ever eventually donate my papers to an archive. And in the digital age it would seem ego-maniacal to print every email correspondence to save for posterity. But there is something about reading someone's hand-written notes that seems so intimate, even if it's about how the president spent the organization's money.

I spent an hour at the end of the day in the French Quarter... got some pralines and some beignets, walked around, watched a scene for a movie be filmed at a cafe (it takes a ridiculous amount of people and security to film two people sitting at a table), and took a few hasty pictures.

My favorite part of the day? Watching a man in the Quarter lead a crowd in "This Little Light of Mine", clapping and singing. "Jesus is comin' back, I'm gonna let it shine..."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tales from the Archives

Greetings from the Big Easy! Here begins the first step of my out of state research for my dissertation.

I'm staying across Lake Ponchatrain from New Orleans with relatives in Mandeville. So we drove across the 24 mile bridge (longest in the world) and through all the city's devastation. I saw where the breach happened in one of the canals and it's smaller than I would have imagined for all the damage it caused. Many houses are abandoned, some are rebuilt, and FEMA trailers dot every few driveways for those who still do not have livable houses. The scene is bleak to be honest. One sign read "Bulldoze house but don't cut down tree." The tree weathered the storm, so why destroy it now? One church was getting ready to re-open this Sunday and a team of congregants busily prepared.

My first stop was Dillard University, which fared decently during Katrina minus its library. I was unable to ascertain before I arrived that the special collections have relocated to storage while the library is being rennovated. An unfortunate consequence.

So I went onto the Amistad Research Center at Tulane. Tulane and the surrounding mansions and parks look untouched. Partly that's because they suffered less damage and partly because they were repaired first. The only time I recognized the impact of Katrina was overhearing a conversation of some professors discussing the university's new evacuation plan. Class and race inequalities were thus impossible for me not to see today.

But Amistad was great... I got through two boxes today and will peruse several more tomorrow they are bringing from off-site storage. I got so excited exploring these materials, like I was starting to put pieces together and to discover. I hope this is representative of how the rest of my trip will go.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Woman Behind Wonder Woman

From KorePress.org:

"Written by men for 60 years, feminist icon Wonder Woman finally gets a female author in novelist Jodi Picoult, only the second woman to write her story (the first was Mindy Newel, who scripted three issues in the original series). But Wonder Woman's (male) illustrators haven't changed: Picoult reports she advocated for a breast reduction, to no avail. Still, as a role model for girls, Picoult says "I love the fact that [Wonder Woman] is strong and has muscles and powerful thighs." But what about that costume? "All I'm gonna say," responds Picoult, "is that any woman knows you can't fight crime in a bustier."
(artwork by Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Anti-Genocide in the Book of Esther

I've been reading the book of Esther and it has a very clear anti-genocide message. Haman, the evil right hand man to King Xerxes, decides in a moment to decree the destruction of the Jews after Mordecai, a Jew, disrespects him. One personal issue (that shouldn't even have been an issue) and he makes a decision to kill an entire people group. The rest of the book speaks of Esther and Mordecai being used to stop this genocide.

Why isn't it ok? Because it's wrong... God is a God of redemption not of destruction. Even in OT terms of His wrath, God is merciful. And in the case of Queen Esther, the King's own wife would have been killed. Our neighbors and family members could represent a targeted group. Then there's Mordecai, the annoying citizen who sits outside the king's gate and does things no one seems to understand. To put it more bluntly, I see Mordecai representing the homeless or the foreigners who never quite fit "our" customs and standards and thereby pose some sort of threat.

How do they stop it? It takes everyone... Esther as an insider in the kingdom who doubts her power but wields it creatively and convincingly with the people who matter. Mordecai, giving Esther encouragement and strategy. The people, who dress in sack cloth and ashes and pray and fast.

I can find myself in each of those solutions. And I must.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Laundry Room

While some people complain about community laundry rooms, I quite like them. I might like the one in my apartment complex less if it weren't two doors down from me, but I like running into people, having random conversations, checking the mail, etc. Once you get past the awkwardness of separating your laundry as you talk, that is.

I have had a hell of a week. To be honest I'm overwhelmed with just about every area of my life. School, work, relationships, family, the future--it's all got it's own stress right now. And it added up and crashed in on me tonight.

While I was waiting for my clothes to dry, I checked my mail and found a letter from my mom's college roommate, with whom she is still close. It was completely out of nowhere, and extremely timely. Two pages of funny stories and lots of encouragement, the kind that you can only appreciate from a life long friend who gets the complexity of your life and the things you're capable of.

So that was it, I burst into tears, reading this letter in the laundry room. No real way to hide. My neighbor, who is a hospital chaplain, came in just as I tried to shield my face. He asked if he could pray for me. I nodded my head yes, choked up, and talked to him while he hung up his shirts. He started to walk out the door and I looked at him, confused... Apparently he meant could he pray for me in his heart, like over the weekend. But he kindly offered to pray with me, and since I was so desperate for someone outside my everyday circle to lift me up, I said yes, please.

He came over and joined hands with me and my roommate. He led us to be still, to remember that God always hears us. And he prayed for tears to wash away pain, hard feelings to illustrate possibility, and conflict to begin growth.

Old friends, neighbors, roommates, prayers, the God who always hears, and the most inane community space.

These are my peace.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Be Not Afraid

To overestimate human potential,
To recognize good,
To become more.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Women in Darfur: How to Help

Save Darfur

STAND (Student Anti-Genocide organization)

Twenty Women For Darfur

Women’s Human Right’s Network

Women for Women International: Darfur

Monday, April 23, 2007

Women in Darfur: The Situation

The Conflict

Darfur has been embroiled in a deadly conflict for over three years. At least 400,000 people have been killed; more than 2 million innocent civilians have been forced to flee their homes and now live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad; and more than 3.5 million men, women, and children are completely reliant on international aid for survival. Not since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has the world seen such a calculated campaign of displacement, starvation, rape, and mass slaughter.

Since early 2003, Sudanese armed forces and Sudanese government-backed militia known as “Janjaweed” have been fighting two rebel groups in Darfur, the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The stated political aim of the rebels has been to compel the government of Sudan to address underdevelopment and the political marginalization of the region. In response, the Sudanese government’s regular armed forces and the Janjaweed – largely composed of fighters of nomadic background – have targeted civilian populations and ethnic groups from which the rebels primarily draw their support – the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.
From www.savedarfur.com

Women in Conflict

Much of the violence perpetrated in the Darfur conflict has resulted in grave human rights violations against women. These violations against women and girls include abductions, rape and forced displacement. The only real protection being provided for Darfuri women and girls has been from African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), despite significant restrictions on its capabilities.
From www.amnestyusa.org

Rapes and Sex Slavery

As Amnesty International reported in July, women and girls as young as 8 are being raped and used as sex slaves in the conflict area, despite guarantees by the Sudanese government to disarm the Janjawid.
In some cases the Janjawid have raped women in public, in front of their husbands, relatives or the wider community. These women and girls are being attacked not only to dehumanize them, but also to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear upon, displace and persecute the community to which they belong.

The Janjawid have acted with full impunity and with the full knowledge or acquiescence of the government army, and the government of Sudan has not charged a single member of the Janjawid or of the armed forces with committing rape or kidnapping.

In fact, the mass rapes ongoing in Darfur are war crimes and crimes against humanity that the international community is doing little to stop.

Despite the Security Council's actions and our report, the situation appears only to be getting worse. On Aug. 10, a United Nations High Commission for Refugees spokesperson reported that the agency has received reports of an increasing number of rapes inside government and Janjawid-run displacement camps. Authorities in Khartoum not only have done little to stop the rapes; medical resources for the proper care of victims, including trained personnel and facilities to treat sexually transmitted diseases, are sorely lacking.

Single Women in Most Danger

Women and children make up the majority of the population in the camps. As Amnesty International learned from testimonies gathered last May, married women who have lost their husbands to violence and single women are in particular danger of abuse and exploitation, whether they have settled in camps for the internally displaced or have fled to nearby villages.

Their children are more likely to be affected by malnutrition, less likely to receive an education and these survivors and their daughters may be forced into prostitution.

Displacement has also led to an increase in the number of early marriages, with some families resorting to marrying their daughters at a very young age in the hope that marriage will give some measure of protection from the threat of sexual violence, protection parents feel unable to provide.

The Janjawid have raped many women who, fearing their husbands will be killed if they venture outside the camps, have gone in their place to collect firewood. The Janjawid also have tortured women to coerce them to report the whereabouts of their husbands. Forms of torture reportedly have included forcing the faces of women between wooden sticks and pulling out women's nails. Some women also have reported that the Janjawid have broken the legs of rape victims in order to prevent them from escaping.

While giving ample attention to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the international community needs to do more to stop what is happening to Darfur's women and girls. If the victims were our mothers, our daughters and our sisters, the international community would respond more vigorously.

From “Help Stop Violence Against Women in Darfur” by Beth Glick, program associate for the Crisis Preparedness and Response Unit of Amnesty International USA.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don Imus

So the d.j. who called the women of the mostly black Rutgers basketball team "nappy-headed hos" has been let go from simulcast on MSNBC. That's some consolation, knowing that when people respond to such hateful remarks then companies listen (even if just for no other reason that economic boycott--yep, it's still powerful). Granted he will probably keep his radio show, but at least something has been done.

Unfortunately remarks like this aren't all that uncommon. Women are referred to in derogatory terms in music, film, and other media daily. For the record, I don't think calling a woman a bitch or a ho in a rap song is OK. Remarks like that trickle down to the culture and are demeaning even if they aren't meant to be. (Side note: One creative way to resist the negativity associated with words is to reappropriate them--i.e. Bitch Magazine--but that does not completely remove its power b/c broader society still utilizes them in offensive ways).

And I'm for freedom of speech, but I do think there needs to be accountability for racist and sexist slurs such as these.

Political talk shows, from every side of the spectrum, are routinely offensive to any number of groups. But at least they are trying to make a point. At least they have a context. They might be trying to make a point I find offensive or don't agree with, but at least there is a point.

We are all a little (or a lot) racist and sexist. Unsolicited remarks such as Imus' show how fallen and insensitive we are. The whole thing makes me examine myself. Imus spoke these slurs not knowing anything about the women on this team. Nothing about their character, lives, or accomplishments. If I really believe all people are equal, then I will treat them as such by the words that I speak.

I think about all it has taken for women to be recognized as athletes, let alone for women of color to play on integrated college teams. We still have so much left to fight for if such a prominent figure can dismiss the collective and individual accomplishments of women and women of color so easily.

Moreover it makes me realize how much fight I've got left...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Somet thoughts on non-violence

In studying non-violent resistance, I have become very confused. I am with Ella Baker--she believed that militancy was a good idea some times and non-violence was a good idea at other times. But she always believed action was necessary. The term pacifism implies non-action, which is contrary to the way we are set up to help others. But I believe it is possible to be extremely active in non-violent ways. War has done very little for the world, and peaceful resistance, though it takes longer, has longer-lasting results.

Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, did a sermon series in December entitled "Calling All Peacemakers." He pointed out that Jesus told Peter to drop his sword when Jesus was arrested. And Bell also pointed out that Christ's acceptance of crucifixion was, in a sense, Him rebelling against a cruel and unjust justice system. I'm mulling that over during Easter, thinking about all the violent ways God could have saved the world, and He didn't. It was Jesus coming to be the Prince of Peace, to save the world in ways no one had ever seen.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

There is Rock and Always Water

If I were to guess why I was so afraid of failure, it would be to say that I am afraid of unfulfillment. We have very interesting ways to illuminate our own desires when met with the question of why we live. Being is an understatement for the ways we decide to move, forcing ourselves through the crevices of unmovable rock. We gain strength from the untimely changes that confront the way we constructed our future, and climb higher on the hills of uncertainty.

Why the day begins to break
Why the stars are outnumbered
by the
of Your

Thursday, February 15, 2007

All This Happens

Take time to whisper the winds of change,
And re-design the anthems that bring you comfort.
Fall short and rise above,
You Daughters of the Most High.
Recognize your inherent worth
And seize whatever you can.
Cling to sorrow long enough to breathe it,
Then move to the place of action-oriented solace.

We find strength when we cannot seek it.
We encounter truth where we cannot interpret it.

Desperately, hungrily, fervently.
We know Who You are.
Show Yourself, make Yourself known.

I am uncomfortable with the concept that
Love and destiny might not coincide,
And take comfort in the shape of Your design,
Where You bring all things together
And make all things right in their own time.

Awake, arise--
Love comes slowly to meet with us
And we cannot reject it.
In embracing love we embrace possibility,
And all the things we couldn't believe
Somehow are true.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


"If we really loved like Jesus does, capitalism would be impossible and Marxism would be unnecessary." --Shane Claiborne

Ah, consumerism...

the idol i dress up with things i've bought...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ordinary 4

"They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. (Jer. 1:19)

I am inspired by the lack of insignificance You possess. Covered in the insecurity my feeble frame carries around, I lament my own limitations. But oh how You go to great lengths to raise us above all that.