thirty four.

I’ve previously made lists on my birthday. Things I know or feel strongly about. They’ve held me accountable + help measure progress or a lack thereof. It feels valuable to go back and read things I knew-some of which I’m not sure I can claim to have ever known. Because I still don’t know them. Or else, my perspective has shifted almost entirely since I wrote those former words.

At thirty-four I still like getting older. I’m grateful for this season of life-where babies have grown to be self-sufficient in ways I was ready for. My favorite moments are ones where I notice their little eyes staring back at me-connection that is proving more infrequent as they grow. Otherwise, most days are spent moving around each other-our house so full of energy + noise. So many decisions being made out loud. To bounce this or paint that. To eat this and never that. More glitter + sugar + friends, always. Later bedtimes + earlier school days. Eric + I have found a rhythm and it is good. I feel cared for and known-and I hope to always recognize what a gift it is to be loved like this.  

For consistency’s sake, I think I’ll list out a few concepts I’m holding ever tightly to these days. Some have felt tried and true and some I’m certain I’ll forever be navigating the details of-or maybe I’ll even change my mind on entirely. Some have been birthed from a season of heartache-while others have moved + shaken the ground upon which I’ve previously stood. They’re not groundbreaking and I’m not the first to have considered their significance + value. But they’re where I’m currently standing-and some feel steadier than others.  

Heaven to Earth : I’ve spent much of my life contextualizing Biblical text as mandates imposed on humanity that help decide our fate of entering Heaven or hell. I understood the central theme to be a combination of legalism and grace that leads us towards an end times depicted in the Left Behind series. I’m beginning to recognize how a rapture centered theology was inspired by a culture that preached America as exceptional + individualism as essential. I’m grateful for the ways God has led me into a season of decolonizing my theology-which in turn shifts my perspective. I’m wanting to invest more time and attention to the ways God is bringing Heaven to Earth-here + now.  I’m leaning into the privilege it is to learn more about Christ-and allow His example of peace + freedom + justice to inform how I can learn + work + build for God’s kingdom. And I can say with all confidence that I’m spending very little emotional and mental energy on what my rapture future holds.

Stay in my lane : This is a hard one that I keep getting wrong. Mostly because I’m trying to kick the assumption that I can speak into most every lane from a place of expertise 😉 I’m trying to narrow down which spaces to invest my head + heart and then be ever intentional there (someone help a girl out and point me in the right direction.) And also reminding myself that if I don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say so. At 34, the more I learn, the less I seem to know-and there is freedom in that reality. Someone recently encouraged me in this journey of discernment with the words, ‘process any underlying worldview through the filter of Christ.’ In trying to find my lane, I hope to stay committed to doing just that.

We belong to each other : Examples of people working together to bring healing to the hurting have provided me a restored sense of hope in humanity. It often feels like community is most fully experienced in times of heartache and loss-and I’m sad it’s not a more foundational characteristic of the United States of America. As I recently watched the Derek Chauvin court case pause to broadcast the funeral of a Capital police officer killed in his line of duty, it felt like an impossible juxtaposition to navigate. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated by a world that feels disengaged + disconnected-whose ‘thoughts + prayers’ may be sincere but sound and feel superficial and tired.  May our collective confidence in our belonging move us away from apathy + inactivity and into communities and opportunities that grow our care + concern for one another.

Peacemaking, yes please. Of the honest variety* : There’s a growing sense of apprehension + weariness about the division in America-and I’ve heard peacemaking preached as the adversary of that dividedness. My concern is the two are not necessarily in opposition of the other. In the name of not creating further division, I don’t think peacemaking equates to silence. I think that sounds more like using peacemaking as a scapegoat for neutrality-which provides very limited accountability to the kind of complacency that cultivates inequity and expands unequal power dynamics.

(In an effort to stay in (and speak to) my lane,) May the church (and any of us who claim Christ) feel a deep sense of responsibility to speak truth-at the expense of turning some dishonest and exclusive and oppressive tables upside down-knowing they often hold power + privilege and there will be a cost. We certainly don’t have to attend every single debate but when we feel uncomfortable, may we consider the questions, ‘whose peace am I looking to uphold’ and by not engaging, ‘whose access to peace is limited because of my unwillingness to speak truth into this space?’

And last(s) but certainly not least, Survivor remains the best television. Philadelphia remains the best sports city. Africa is still not a country. And for the love all of all things, can we please stop saying everything happens for a reason.

an attempted coup. in the united states of america*

I spent most of yesterday celebrating the state of Georgia’s surprise Senate election results. Charlotte, Reece, + Luca spent the day playing with friends. Eric worked. We ate dinner and celebrated the birthday of our favorite one year old and then it was bedtime for the kids. Eric and I stayed awake to watch the Presidential certification process take place-knowing there was going to be some (attention seeking) drama. It was supposed to be the kind of tired drama that happens in our aged Capitol building-where a few politicians felt like slowing down the inevitable vote to certify Joe Biden as 46th President. I was going to roll my eyes and feel frustrated with a side of vindication. Or vindicated with a side of frustration. Either way, Georgia did well and it was going to be a good day + an uneventful night.

Somewhere between rolling my eyes + Eric falling asleep on the couch, dynamics shifted away from political process and the uneventful night theory went out the door. Donald Trump supporters were storming the Capitol building and CNN had more questions than answers. They weren’t yet calling it an attempted coup or describing the crowd as domestic terrorists, but I knew what I was watching. You see, our little American family has lived on the continent of Africa long enough to have been warned of events like these transpiring overseas. We’ve been taught to pay close attention when politics start looking chaotic here. They’ll tell you it’s these international countries that lack logic + stability-therefore genocide + civil unrest are imminent. But the caveat is exclusively for post-colonized countries (which some people still refer to as third-world.)

Like any good ex-patriot, I’ve read about coups and I’ve remained on guard, never mind Zambia has never been at war with themselves on anyone else. Our neighbors justifiably take great pride in their posture for peace and we’ve generally felt safer here than America. Regardless, in my mind, a coup taking place in Zambia has forever been more likely than a coup happening in America. And that’s based solely on people telling me so. I don’t even know who those people are, but it seemed to be absolute truth that America’s division wasn’t the same as what we’ve seen in South America or the Middle East or Africa. America’s unrest was the stable variation-the ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ that remains disciplined-unlike the rest of the world. In fact, it’s the whole wide world that relies on America to uphold their law + order. Lest anyone forgets our self-imposed place + power in the world.

And while I haven’t subscribed to that propaganda, I was still shocked by the scenes unfolding at the Capitol. The blatant disrespect + arrogance displayed by white men + women who were creating chaos to prove their allegiance to a delusional white supremacist was 1. both expected all along and 2. came out of nowhere. It only took a few minutes to realize their dissent was hardly organized-they were wrecking a building to prove they could. A group of bullies on a glorified tour of the Capitol building, they had no vision for what to do with all that energy. It will prove to have been a desperate last attempt to demonstrate that their racism + privilege had proximity to power.

As I watched CNN and texted friends in the US, I quickly learned that my attempt at being a pacifist has its limits and they had been reached. In a most honest moment, I was outspoken about wanting to meet the thugs I was seeing on television with my fist to their face. I was angry + sad-and outside of that, it all felt so complicated.

And then we woke up this morning and the fall out is so many Americans feeling undone by yesterday’s events-rightfully so. We don’t know what to think, let alone what to say. We aren’t sure how to reconcile it all-so we write yesterday off as anti-American. I’ve heard it said a few times over, ‘surely that display isn’t a characteristic of our democracy.’ But I’m afraid the hateful rhetoric + fear mongering + racism + sexism + xenophobia that has been championed on stage and in the Oval Office simply found community with one another. They took their unified sense of superiority and chaos to Washington D.C to challenge a transition of power process for the first time in 120+ years. Upending an event + process that has been historically peaceful might feel un-American because it’s hardly looked so chaotic before. But the behavior and prejudices that incited the coup are woven into the fabric of the United States of America.

Outside of yesterday’s event, all those rioters are still racist + sexist + xenophobic in their everyday lives. They bring chaos-on small scales-to particular people every single day. Our black brothers + sisters are telling us that’s the case. Our brown brothers + sisters are telling us. Our less able-bodied, LGBTQIA, non-Christian brothers and sisters are telling us, too. And the more boxes we check in the hierarchy of power (white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, Christian, cisgender etc..) the more difficult it is to recognize what is happening around us.  

Maybe the domestic terrorists of yesterday aren’t so emboldened when they’re not part of a MAGA collective-but they remain intolerant + oppressive, still. The collective of yesterday goes back to being teachers, managers, and law enforcement today. They’re raising babies + buying groceries + greeting their neighbors. They’re asking you to pray for our nation and are ‘so tired of politics.’ They’re nice people who want to go back to ‘the good ol’ days’ and they think political correctness is fragile.

Yesterday was offensive for so many reasons. Top of my list are how obviously unequal power dynamics are in America. That accountability looks different depending on the crowd-though the implication is that it’s never based on color. That black oppression is borne out of white privilege like mine.

I’m offended by the ways Christ’s name was taken + displayed in vain yesterday. That I can disassociate that behavior + prejudice from the person + savior of Jesus-but the loudest voices are trying to align Christ with the Republican Party and its being bought HOOK.LINE+SINKER. That the marriage of nationalism + Christianity has birthed Americanism that many of us don’t want to be represented by. I’m offended it’s seen as ungrateful to say as much.  

I’m offended by today’s very particular calls for peace + prayer. I’m offended by people trying to disguise their right-wing allegiances by playing devil’s advocate and offering the benefit of the doubt to these domestic terrorists and our intolerable President. I’m offended that the status quo favors neutrality and today’s pleasantries are evidence of that truth.

I’m offended that I wouldn’t have guessed an attempted coup in 2021 would have happened in America before Zambia. That I subscribed to the narrative of American exceptionalism while being so unnecessarily critical of a continent that hardly gets to tell its own story. I’m struggling to reconcile that today’s messages + words of empathy and sorrow coming from our dear Zambian neighbors are so unfamiliar and gracious and meaningful that I’m brought to tears.