Eyes Open

Re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Wisdom resides in the heart of the discerning; she is known even among fools.

Proverbs 14:33, Holman Christian Standard Bible

Over the past several years, I’ve been on a journey. A journey of growth and stretching and learning and unraveling and untethering. It has brought a lot of internal conflict into my emotional and spiritual life as I’ve grappled with my convictions and held them up against things I’ve been taught from an early age and tried to make sense out of the gaps.

The more I do this wrestling, the more I understand that what I’m experiencing is just growing up. Growing into my own person. Being guided by the Holy Spirit into a new, holy life that is based not on religious or cultural traditions but by the Word of God and the Spirit. It’s uncomfortable and scary at times, pulling me away from church affiliations and previously held beliefs out into a bigger, wider expanse of the world that I’ve not experienced. But living any other way would be a shell of a life.

Our nation is facing its own sort of reckoning right now. Holding up its practices and policies against the values its said to have had, values like freedom and equality and human rights, and finding gaping holes. And if we don’t get to work on walking out into a new way of life, our country will rot from the inside out.

It starts with us as individuals. Choosing to open our eyes to injustice around us. Educating ourselves on other people’s experiences. Listening to people’s stories and believing them. Owning our responsibility in making change happen. Apologizing and righting wrongs we’ve committed against others out of hate or ignorance or indifference. Making sure that our homes are places where racist words aren’t spoken and racist ideas aren’t given any weight. And voting to make sure that our government leaders are doing the same kind of work.

The journey is long and tough at times, but it’s the path towards God’s heart. Come join us.

Memorial Day: Its Roots and Why They Matter

Constructed in 1792, the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club was one of the finest race tracks in the South. During the Civil War, it became a prison for Union soldiers, and in 1865, thanks to 10,000 recently freed enslaved Black Charlestonians, it would become the sacred location of the first Memorial Day celebration.

During the war, Union soldiers were held in the open air of the race track’s infield. More than 260 Union soldiers died of exposure and disease due to these horrific conditions. Confederates buried the bodies of the dead in a mass grave behind the track’s club house as Charleston fell to Union forces in February of 1865.

By this time, the city had been mostly abandoned by White residents. As news spread of the mass burial, Black freedmen joined together to unearth those bodies in the mass grave and give them a proper burial. Working for two weeks, these men carefully identified the dead, dug graves for each serviceperson, and marked the graves properly. Then, they built a high fence surrounding the graves, whitewashed the fence, and built an entrance to the cemetery with “Martyrs of the Race Course” inscribed in the archway.

1865 view of Union graves at Washington
Race Course. Source: Library of Congress.

This act of justice and grace was also an act of independence, a celebration of freedom that came at a deep cost for millions of Americans, slave and free, who had been fighting for human rights since the year 1619 when Africans were first enslaved in the swamps of Jamestown, Virginia to grow tobacco.

In the weeks that followed the race course burial, Black Charlestonians organized a parade to consecrate the place and remember the fallen. 2,800 Black schoolchildren and their teachers carried hundreds of roses, sang the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body” and marched toward the Washington Racecourse in Charleston, South Carolina where the 267 Union soldiers had been given proper burial just two weeks before.

Charlestonian students and their teachers leading the first Memorial Day celebration. Source: African American Registry.

Behind the children came waves of recently freed Black women and men, members of the Union infantry, and some White citizens. As many as 10,000 people all told gathered within the enclosure of the newly erected cemetery to show gratitude for the sacrifice given for their freedom and celebrate a second Independence Day, only now this independence would flow out onto the lives of those previously denied independence by their own nation’s Constitution.

Children’s choirs sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” and several spirituals and ministers read Biblical scriptures. After the planned activities, those gathered spread out on the very infield where Union soldiers had been held as prisoners of war just months before and enjoyed what many Americans today associate with Memorial Day: a good picnic.

This act of solidarity on the grounds of what had once been a place for planters to display their wealth and privilege (and even hold auctions to sell enslaved people) became the foundation on which our national Memorial Day holiday has been built. But as often happens in the American retelling of historical human events, the story line of resilience and service and pride of Black Americans that should serve as the driving force behind so many of our national celebrations today has been erased and subsequently replaced with later actions and celebrations of White people.

Over time, those buried in the Martyrs of the Race Course cemetery were reinterred to a national cemetery. Today, the race track is part of a city park named for a White supremacist and former governor of South Carolina, Wade Hampton. Hampton came from a wealthy planter and was known before the war as one of the largest slaveholders in the southeast. The so-called “Savior of South Carolina,” Hampton was also a state legislator and led the Redeemers, a southern political group dedicated to restoring White rule in the South following Reconstruction.

The Washington race track at Hampton Park today. Source: Visit Historic Charleston.

Stories matter. Telling the truth about our nation’s history matters. Celebrating national holidays with a full measure of knowledge and not a whitewashed version of the truth matters. May we all walk arm-in-arm today towards wholeness and restoration as we embrace the histories and experiences of all Americans and remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Reference:

Blight, D. (2011). The First Decoration Day. Retrieved May 24, 2020, from https://www.zinnedproject.org/materials/the-first-decoration-day/

Featured image: Memorial Day, illustration for The New York Times. Artist: Owen Freeman.

Woman: Rejected, Reborn Again

Almost a year ago, Rachel Held Evans passed away suddenly. On June 1, 2019, I watched the livestream of her funeral while sitting in my favorite chair with Polly snuggled up next to me, and I bawled my head off. While grappling with my faith and frustration with hypocrisy and double standards woven in and through the American evangelical church, her words had been carrying me. And though I had never met her, Rachel helped me dispel many untruths I’d learned as a child and adolescent, untruths that held my heart and spirit hostage for years.

When I was in high school, I began to see talents and gifts of mine stirring under the surface, pushing their way up through the fresh soil of my youthful self. But because of the church community in which I grew up, these gifts were limited, apparently, because I was not a man. I could teach, but only to girls. I could be on stage during worship services but only to sing, not pray or read scripture or preach unless the room was only full of women or kids in elementary school. All because I was female and not male.

The message all of this communicated to me was: you are missing this very important thing that you have no control over (being a man) that would make you qualified to do the work you think you’re being called to do. And because you are missing this thing, you’re going to have to find some other calling. In fact, since God says women shouldn’t do those things, this calling couldn’t have been given to you by God. So it’s probably something that you’ve misinterpreted or misunderstood, or worse, have conjured up all on your own because you want attention.

Some of these things were actually said to me, but most of them were simply implied in our church culture. Or said in my presence about other women by well-meaning church members and leaders.

To be clear, my parents always encouraged me to pursue my gifts. They were some of my biggest supporters (and still are). From gifting me a brief internship with missionaries in the Dominican Republic for my sixteenth birthday to advocating for me when a local church leader tried to undermine my standing in the church because I was pursuing a divorce from my then-husband, my parents have walked with me through this life so faithfully. But the culture we grow up in can be so suffocating, and in my case, the message from our church culture in my youth stomped out any truth my parents spoke to me during these years.

I stumbled through the rest of high school in a bit of a haze, feeling unseen by the people I loved and trusted, seeking solace in things like relationships with cute boys and unhealthy amounts of exercise and obsession over food, either depriving myself or indulging myself depending on the day. And in all of it, what was lost the most was the love I felt from God. Because not only had my church rejected my gifts but so had God. And in rejecting my gifts, hadn’t he rejected me, too?

From that time on, I’ve been walking with a limp. Not only did I feel rejected by my Creator and my church community, the people our lives were centered on, but I also started doubting my intuition. I questioned my ability to see and know myself. I questioned my ability to hear from God at all. I felt so stupid for getting it so wrong.

Looking back, what enrages me most about this is that I never considered that maybe the church had gotten it wrong, not me. And it wasn’t until I stumbled upon Rachel Held Evans’s blog a few years ago that I even entertained this notion.

The first essay of hers I ever read was “Confessions of an accidental feminist.” What started with an attitude of skepticism (because how could a Christian also be a feminist?) shifted to dumbfoundedness and then relief and then open weeping.

Evans’s perspective and her truth-telling about who Jesus is and how he treated women contrasted with what my church upbringing taught me about women gave me the permission I needed to start asking some pretty big damn questions. Not just about my religious experiences in childhood but also about who I am as a beloved woman in the eyes of God and about how God sees all of us.

The optimist in me would like to wrap up this whole recounting and reflection with a neat little bow. But that’s just not real life. Eight years later, I am still walking with a limp. But the more I read the Scriptures, and the more I surround myself with wisdom and insight from people who don’t align themselves with the complementarian beliefs my childhood was steeped in, the closer I am drawn to the heart of God and find peace in seeing who he has created me to be. In a way, it’s been a sort of second rebirth for me.

And you know what? I think that all of those years ago, when I felt God nudging me to be a truth-teller about his love, to teach about his mercy and unending lovingkindness and acceptance of “the other,” I think that I didn’t get it wrong after all. Thanks be to God.

Adobo Beef with Roasted Vegetables and Fresh Salsa

A few years ago, Charlie and I decided to upgrade our date-night ins with Blue Apron meal boxes. For more than two years, we enjoyed cooking dinner together every Thursday night and trying new foods and flavors.

While we discontinued our weekly Blue Apron subscription about a year ago when co-parenting times shifted a bit, I love adapting those fun meals to enjoy today.

This meal is full of Mexican flavor and is a great way to get more vegetables on your plates, too. It comes together in 30-45 minutes, so add this one to your week-night meal rotation!

Adobo Beef with Roasted Vegetables and Fresh Salsa

adapted from Mexican Beef Bowls recipe by Blue Apron

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons of Mexican spice blend, see recipe below
  • 2 carrots, halved lenth-wise and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon pickled jalapeños, diced (less or more, depending on your heat preference)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 lime, halved

Mexican spice blend: 1 tablespoon each of Adobo chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, and smoked paprika. 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Mix together and store in airtight container. 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine carrots and broccoli. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat. On an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan, arrange carrots and broccoli in one layer. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the Mexican spice blend. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are browned.
  2. While the vegetables roast, add rice, 2 cups of water, and a pinch of salt to a small saucepan on high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low until water is absorbed. Remove rice from heat, fluff with a fork, and cover until the rest of the meal is prepared.
  3. While the rice cooks and the vegetables continue roasting, combine quartered tomatoes, juice from 1/2 of lime, and diced jalapeños in a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  4. In a large saute pan, brown ground beef over medium heat, breaking into smaller pieces. Drain fat from the pan and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of Mexican spice blend. Add 1/2 cup of water and stir to combine. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
  5. While beef cooks, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and juice from 1/2 lime in a small bowl. Whisk to create a Baja sauce for drizzling or dipping.
  6. Serve rice alongside beef with roasted vegetables and salsa on top. Finish with a drizzle of Baja sauce and sprinkle of cotija or parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Serves 4.

 

Garden Pasta Salad

If you’re looking for a quick, healthy alternative for lunches or light dinners, I’m here for ya, sister. In my family, we pull together a big batch of this delicious pasta salad for family vacations every year. Mix it all together in a large tupperware bowl and you’re set!

Garden Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. rotini pasta
  • 1 medium cucumber, sliced
  • 16 oz. grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup Balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta to ‘al dente’ according to box directions. Rinse with cold water in a colander until pasta is no longer warm.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, add vegetables and dressing to a large bowl. Stir to combine and place in refrigerator to chill.
  3. Once pasta is cool, add to vegetables and dressing and mix thoroughly. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  4. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.