Dear America – Nothing Will Change Until You Face Yourself

Photo Credit: Nitish Meena

Last night I dreamed groups of us moved slowly, herded like cattle, pushed into large spaces meant to contain undesirables, those folks swimming across oceans, desperately chasing illusions of freedom; they hail from countries we callously dismiss because their faces are the color of copper pennies and mahogany, faces like mine.

I tried to run, all of us did, but escape seemed impossible; our mouths full of invisible cotton, choking words we longed to utter into the angry stillness enveloping us. It is the kind of dream one finds nearly impossible to awaken from because it echoes real life.

What is unfolding in America today under the guise of “immigration policy” is barbaric. Infants and children callously taken from their parents arms, left screaming for hours in unending agony, unable to be held or touched by workers in these shelters. Is this what we are becoming? Perhaps it is partly who we always were? Facing this scares us. And so, we swallow self examination with either avoidance or the shallowness of political correctness.

For the last several months, I have come back to Andrea Ritchie’s recent book Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. It’s an arduous read, with account after account of atrocities committed by the state against women of color, from the indigenous to those who were enslaved:

“On the estate I am speaking of, those women who had sucking children suffered much from their breasts becoming full of milk, the infants being left at home. They therefore could not keep up with the other hands: I have seen the overseer beat them with raw hide, so that the blood and milk flew mingled from their breasts.”

Pain. Suffering. Sorrow. Ripping families apart then and now…

Photo Credit: Nathaniel Tetteh

All of these practices exist within a continuum of the historical dehumanization of people of color. And at this moment, migrant children are under attack with no regard for their psychological or physical welfare. According to a recent article in The Washington Post “nearly 4,600 mental-health professionals and 90 organizations have signed a petition urging President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several elected officials to stop the policy of separating children from their parents. The petition says:

These children are thrust into detention centers often without an advocate or an attorney and possibly even without the presence of any adult who can speak their language. We want you to imagine for a moment what this might be like for a child: to flee the place you have called your home because it is not safe to stay and then embark on a dangerous journey to an unknown destination, only to be ripped apart from your sole sense of security with no understanding of what just happened to you or if you will ever see your family again. And that the only thing you have done to deserve this, is to do what children do: stay close to the adults in their lives for security.

A 2-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Tex. (John Moore/Getty Images)

I read these words over and over, each time the weight of my anger and sorrow grows. As I look back at the lead story photo, a little girl bewildered, desperately trying to make sense of a senseless situation, I see Nai, myself (the daughter of an immigrant), and every child. They all long for reassurance, love and safety. Now a country which espouses the rhetoric of inclusion has taken this away from them in a burst of fury led by a few and fueled with xenophobia.

James Baldwin once wrote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it faced.” If we continue to run from ourselves as a society, we will merely create new iterations of the same oppressive systems rooted in ideologies of white supremacy, patriarchy and greed.

And folks of all ethnicities can internalize and carry on the work of institutionalized racism, turning hatred inward, toxically afflicting their own communities. Have we not seen it’s manifestations time and time again with practices like colorism, a term first used by writer and activist Alice Walker which she defines as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color,” in her collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.

None of this is going away until we confront the ghosts who refuse to leave because we so vehemently deny their existence. The crying children of immigrants; our response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico; high maternal mortality rates for women of color; the school to prison pipeline; deadly attacks on those in the transgender and gay community, all of these egregious wrongs are symptoms of a society at war with both the most marginalized and itself.

Each of our lives depends upon tearing down the myths which have held generations captive for centuries. Our collective freedom is inextricably linked to each other. When we come to understand this then fully lasting liberation can blossom within our hearts and souls.

Feeling overwhelmed by all of this? Start with this action:

Sign the petition over at Moms Rising, urging your lawmakers to reject the bills on the table. Here is some info from Moms Rising (the rest is available when you click the link above – “Sign the petition”):

On Friday, President Trump suggested that he won’t change HIS policy of intentionally separating kids from their parents, unless Democrats agreed to his other destructive immigration demands.

Trump’s demands include passing a very dangerous bill proposed by Speaker Ryan. This bill will NOT end family separation. Instead, it would result in children being detained indefinitely in worse conditions, without basic standards for their care or well-being.

It would also result in the near immediate return of other children to the very life-threatening conditions they are fleeing and from which they are seeking asylum (a legally protected right in both national and international law).

Weekly Devotional: Seeing Miracles Everyday

Photo Credit: Anunay Mahajan

God speaks to me through music, nature and people most. How about you?

Well, the other day, a friend insisted I listen to this song, Endless Alleluia by musician Cory Asbury. I guess I could spare a moment, I thought, mentally mapping out the next hour of stuff to do.

I gave Nai her little book, and hit play. Surprisingly it was one of those lyric videos – spare, raw, all voice and poetic words. Each syllable broke through the mundaneness of a Tuesday afternoon, baptizing my spirit in surrender to the omnipresent power of God. As the tears slowly spiraled down my cheeks, I settled into these lines because I live them:

In the moments where you go unnoticed in the ordinary day to day

Countless miracles of life around us point like arrows to your name…”

Our Nai // Photo Credit: Emelda De Coteau

When you believe for a miracle and breakthrough for your family, you learn to notice what others carelessly discard as ordinary. You see God etched into the fabric of your existence, mending brokenness, building bridges as you traverse difficulties. Your struggles become wings, propelling you with unrelenting faith:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:7

I believe God reveals bible verses when we are ready to receive them. I heard snatches of James 1:7 but when I began to read Chris Gore and Angela Locke’s most recent book, The Perfect Gift: Seeing the Child, Not the Condition, about believing God for healing for your child while seeing their beauty and uniqueness, it took on a more profound meaning.

God creates beauty, it’s us who ruin it’s many manifestations due to ego, short sightedness, and a stubborn refusal to see with our hearts. Let us pray for a revelation of the miraculous in ordinary moments, and God will begin using even the smallest signs to cultivate steady belief in our spirits.

How can you be more intentional about opening your eyes to miracles?

Prayer: Dear God – When I feel discouraged, overwhelmed or buried in the mundane tasks of life, open my eyes to the miracles around me. Help me celebrate musicality in a child’s laugh, the warmth of connecting with a family member, friend or person I am meeting for the first time. Remind me not to overlook expansive skies, balmy winds, awakening to sunrises and closing the days gazing upon auburn colored sunsets. In your precious name I pray, Amen.

Weekly Devotional: Learning to Trust God Through the Rain

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isiah 43:2

Last Saturday while driving our daughter Nai, I convinced myself I could escape the looming storm. Immense dark clouds began to dominate the sky, but I decided to stay out a few more moments. Before I could blink steadily, Nai woke up from her nap, and rain beat at my windows, seeming to audibly mock this stubborn decision to ride it out. With worn window shield wipers, I hastily squinted to view the path before us, now obscured by puddles and puddles of rain.

God, I prayed, cover our car, Kes (my husband), while he is at work, Mom and Dad, me and Nai. I felt my stomach somersault, anxiety bubbling rapidly. Driving in rain frightens me, it becomes a kind of paralyzing fear, the fear of loosing control. Quickly my mind returns to an accident from years ago where my car abruptly skidded, and I lost control, despite a steadfast grip on the wheel. These days I pray and practice deep breathing to drive down hills during rain or thunderstorms; it’s usually a simple prayer: God, help me.

As I continued driving, slowly the once torrential downpour subsided into a soft drizzle. Today, writing this devotional, surrounded by the chorus of nature, and reflecting on last weekend’s experience, I realize God sat beside me that day and continues to daily. Steady. Strong. Comforting. Transforming panic into power to move forward.

When we surrender ego, fear, control, stress, heartache, God guides us through life’s hardships, mends the brokenness we stubbornly cling to out of habit, and gradually, we move through, one difficulty at a time. The divine presence is there, sweet friends, even when you feel most alone. Journaling our prayers, sitting outside in green spaces, resting our consciousness by unplugging, embracing all of these tools, helps ground our faith, while strengthening us for the journeys ahead.

Prayer:

Dear God –

Help me to rely on you for everything, particularly during the height of stress, confusion and pain, when I am tempted to soothe myself with distractions from the external world. Lay the promises of your words in the tapestry of my mind and heart, an ever-present reminder that all things are possible with you (Luke 1:37).