Viva Escriba

Every year, I ask God for a word or a theme, some sort of lens through which to view the year ahead. In 2017, I had 2 words: Peace and Justice. It was definitely a year of thinking on those things, pursuing a better education on social justice issues, listening to the people around me when they spoke about their lives and struggles. I finished 2017 with the sense that I can be at peace with myself only when I am living a life that pursues justice for others.

What about 2018?

I don’t know.

I have a couple of words, and when I write them in Spanish, they feel like my words for the year. However, they don’t have quite the same oh-so-certain feeling I usually have when my yearly theme lands in my lap. Why?

Perhaps it has to do with where I am in my faith journey. I wrote, last year, about coming to the end of deconstruction and being ready to rebuild. However, rebuilding seems like a distant dream. The foundation is steady. It holds. But I don’t know what it is.

I’m living in a surreal paradox.

I find solace in my faith and also disparage it. For a video I was a part of, my husband asked me to explain the connection between a struggle I experienced and Jesus/salvation/faith. I stumbled through something about Mary and parenting and how God loves us, but my brain was in a panic.

I believe in Jesus, but I don’t know exactly what I believe ABOUT Jesus. I find the Bible both comforting and polarizing. I see wisdom in the pages, but I also can’t elevate it to the level of authority to which those around me have raised it. I believe in God, but I don’t think I believe in the same God those around me believe in… or perhaps I believe in the same God, but approach God’s existence in a different way. We sing worship songs on Sundays and I both love them and find them empty. I feel moved and also wonder how much brain chemistry and music are playing into my experience of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t feel like I am still deconstructing, but perhaps I am being deconstructed. I have spent years tearing apart my religious beliefs and questioning them, rearranging them, shedding them. Now, it seems what is left of my faith is rearranging me.

It is uncomfortable.

It is not permanent, but I don’t know where it leads.

So, with that said, my words for 2018 are:

“Viva Escriba”

Viva can mean, “Live,” a verb, or it can mean, “Life,” a noun. I don’t know if this word is a command, that I am being told to “LIVE!” or if it is an indication that what feels like the death of faith will actually bring new life, resurrection. I can hope. The second word means “Write.” This one I know to take as a command. I have a lot of writing to do this year, in a zillion forms. All of it will stretch me, and I will learn. Writing always teaches me something new.

So, here’s to 2018, a year for living and writing and maybe figuring out who I am again.


Give Me Humility and Give Me Grace

Today is the anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch ship that brought the first African slaves to America.

Most likely, I had an ancestor on that ship. I know my ancestors were Dutch and worked for the Dutch Trading Company. I love learning about my Dutch heritage, my family heritage in general. I don’t love this though. It sits heavy on my heart.

My ancestors were not southern. They did not own slaves for their plantations. I feel like they were worse. They sold human beings. By bringing this first ship to the “new world” they forever altered the course of not just this country but many African countries.

They abandoned their humanity when they chose to dehumanize others.

I’m sorry for what they did. No, I wasn’t alive then. I didn’t do it. But my family line benefitted from that ship and all of the others that followed. And I’m sorry for that.

I believe in the concept of corporate sin, the sin of systems and people who benefit from and do not work to change those systems. I believe I am guilty of these sins. Most of you know that I have struggled with my faith over the last few years. I have struggled with the church and fundamentalism and all sorts of issues. I have also questioned sin, what it is and how it can be dealt with.

I never questioned repentance, because the need to make amends is deeply imbedded in my spirit. I feel the weight of my own personal wrong actions and the weight of the injustice this world bathes in every day, whether we are discussing racist systems or world hunger.

It is so heavy.

Recently, I set a book aside and paused a podcast. My soul was screaming for a break from this year’s theme (2017: Peace and Justice). I just wanted to not carry this burden for a while, to set it down and read something fun and listen to something light-hearted and watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I did take that break to some extent, and the entire time, I was aware that it is my privilege that allowed me to take a break from these things. People of Color cannot take a break from racial injustice. LGBTQ+ people cannot take a break from being judged and treated badly. I can take a break because I am straight and white.

Instead of relieving the pressure, my so-called-break convicted me to my core.

Jesus, help me use my privilege to work justice for your people, ALL OF YOUR PEOPLE, and your world. Help me to pass a different legacy to my children and all of the descendants who follow me. And when I am wrong, when I cling to my own privilege, to the systems that benefit me while hurting others, give me humility and give me grace.

2017: Peace and Justice

For more than ten years, I have skipped resolutions in favor of themes for the New Year. I ask God to give me a word and then I wait. Some years, he gives me more than one word, like in 2007 (Purpose and Vision) and in 2008 (Laughter and Possibilities).

2017 is going to be another two-word year. 2015 was DREAM and it was in that year I began to wrestle with my dreams for the future and eventually found myself dreaming a new dream. This January, I will return to college for the first time in thirteen years. This whole going-back-to-school thing is born of that 2015 theme being followed by my word for 2016, which was Daring.

I did a lot of daring things in 2016, including a month living away from my family (in Honduras) and starting work as a preschool teacher. The latter has turned out to take more daring than the first.

For the last few weeks, I have wrestled with my theme for 2017. I kept hearing two words, but I only wanted one of them.

Peace. Justice.

I only wanted Justice.

My heart is so focused on justice lately. I am in a place of needing to fix the world. If you know anything about Spiral Dynamics (thank you Liturgists Podcast), you will understand when I tell you I am in an orange/green phase of life.

Peace felt like a weak word to be handed by a strong God.

But then it hit me… Peace and Justice are synonyms. Or, at the very least, they are intimately connected. In my own soul, I cannot have one without the other. I was driving along, listening the the Liturgists, and one of them quoted Jesus, “Love God and love neighbor,” and it gut-punched me.

Peace and Justice.

God and Neighbor.

True peace requires everyone to be loved and taken care of. True peace requires no need to strive for justice because justice and mercy have already been handed out.

Or maybe, for my spirit, true peace can only come when I am certain I am striving for justice in the ways that I can, in the ways that I am called to do so. I need to be loving God and loving Neighbor.

I don’t know for sure. It is something I will be wrestling with in 2017. Rarely does my theme turn out to mean exactly what I think it will mean. The Year of Patience was pretty hellacious. And the year of Oblation ended with me questioning every aspect of my faith and religion.

And I already had a year of Peace in 2011. Maybe 2017 will add new dimensions to what I thought I learned that year.

I have created a list of Peace/Justice books on Goodreads. Some are books I have read. Some I want to read and some have been suggested as additions. I am still taking recommendations, so leave a comment or send me a message. There may be some inclusions that seem odd to you, but that is because I am still trying to figure out what kinds of Peace and Justice God means.

My heart is most broken for racial justice.

I feel as though I have lived too many years in a white-washed world.

That isn’t what formed me. I grew up in a diverse school system. My friends in high school were Korean, Black, Filipino, Hispanic, and White. My white friends were not the “upper-class” white girls with the expensive clothes and the right shoes and the perfect make-up. Those girls were mean to me. I felt safer with my friends of color or my friends who were, like me, poor to middle-class. The thing is, I never thought about how diverse my friend-group was. They were my friends. End of story.

Now I realize my experience is not the norm, at least not for the people around me in adulthood. I have to make a conscious effort to ensure my children have friends from other races and cultures. When I am in an environment with people of multiple races, I notice they seem to self-segregate, and I don’t feel free to cross that line very often. When did that happen? Did I change or did other people change or is it the difference of place?

I grew up near a military base. My dad only dated black women and married a black woman. I feel out-of-place with non-diverse groups, but there is no good way to say that. How do you say, “I miss black people?” I miss the smell of Kimmi eating kimchi and the flow of Spanish words and Kim Jones putting me in her afro wig in Creative Writing class and EJ dancing with me on my 17th birthday, his dreads swinging and our bodies close with no thought to what color skin we each lived in.

I miss reveling in the differences found in humanity, exploring those differences rather than disdaining them.

Lately, I want to walk around with a sign above my head: “I don’t like Trump. I am not racist. I want to fix this mess of a world.” I can’t do that, so I am trying to live in such a way that those things are obvious to anyone who meets me. Not in an alienating political way, but in a way that invites others into conversation and relationship.

I want my life to be an open door to community for everyone I meet, regardless of race, culture, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, gender-identity, political party, etc… I am sure I missed a category but I am so tired of needing categories. I want to be in community with you all.

I don’t want anyone to assume that, because I am white and Christian, I am…. well… anything. I don’t want people assuming things about me, and I don’t want to assume things about people. I want to be aware of my white privilege and use it to help others or else walk away from it in protest. I don’t know. I just want to be better than I am.

I don’t have little goals.

But neither did Jesus. He wanted to love the whole world.

So do I.

2016: The Year of Daring

My word for 2015 was “Dream.” You can read about that here, but the general explanation is that I thought the word was a noun, that 2015 would be a year about dreams. In a way, it was, but as I sit here at the end of December, I believe the word was always meant to be a verb.
It was a year when I learned to dream again.
It was a year of learning to let go of old dreams, to take my claws out and let them
breathe, change shape, grow.
Sometimes, one theme flows naturally into another, and this is one of those times.
My word for 2016 is “Daring.”
Daring to dream?
But also daring to act. Daring to try. Daring to ask. Daring to speak. Daring to believe.
I love having a theme for the year. It works as a lens. When things are hard, I hold up my lens and ask myself what lesson I am learning. I’ve been doing this for a decade now. Unlike the resolutions I used to make, my theme is never abandoned.
It isn’t something I can fail at.
It is a window or a mirror.
It is a shovel, a pencil, a paintbrush, a hammer.
It’s whatever I need it to be, whatever tool is most useful at the time.
I have never once regretted asking God for a theme for the new year, even though some years it is hard hard hard and I wish my theme had been easier.
In 2005, I declared it my year of FREEDOM. It was a scary year of learning all of the ways in which I was not free and fighting against those chains. in 2006, my word was CONTENTMENT and I became very aware of the greed inside my soul. I had to face myself.
2007 was PURPOSE AND VISION and mostly I learned what my purpose wasn’t and that my vision for my own life was cloudy. 2008 was all about LAUGHTER AND POSSIBILITIES and it was a great year. It was also a hard year, but as we moved away from friends and the familiar, I was reminded to look for the possible. 2009 was PATIENCE, and I needed lots of it.
2010 was TRUST, which followed PATIENCE well, because when your patience appears to not be paying off, you really have to trust. 2011 was PEACE and 2012 was my year of MARY.
After Mary, it made sense that 2013 was my RED LETTER YEAR. I focused heavily on what Jesus actually called us to, the words he actually spoke. My faith was shifting in small ways, and I needed to hold onto the one thing I was sure of.
Then, in 2014, my theme was OBLATION, and that almost shattered me. When you set out to pursue devotion, you learn where you are not devoted and you realize there are some aspects of the faith you once embraced blindly that you cannot be devoted to anymore.
And so it was time to DREAM again.
And now, it’s time to be DARING.
I’m looking forward to 2016.

Dreaming into 2015

2014 has drawn to a close and I didn’t do any of my traditional end of the year posts. I apologize. I could still do them, but I feel like it’s time for a change. Instead of scrambling to make the bookish year-in-review posts I skipped while sulking around with the flu, I am going to focus on the future.

It’s 2015, y’all.

Every year, I ask God for a theme. This is not a resolution kind of thing. It has zero to do with goal-setting or expectation for the year ahead. Instead, I take what He gives me and use it as a lens with which to look at the events of my year,

Last year, my theme was Oblation. I thought that was my theme because I had started the process of becoming an oblate to a monastery. A year later, I am not an oblate, though I have not 100% abandoned the idea. It just turned out to be wrong timing, and I am unsure when the right timing might happen.

Oblation is another word for devotion, and 2014 was full of me learning about devotion… I learned where my devotion was misplaced and misfocused. I saw where I needed to be more devoted and I also struggled with religious devotion.

A. Lot.

That’s usually how my themes go. I think they mean one thing and God flips me on my head. The year of Purpose and Vision? The year of Freedom? Lawdy… The year of Patience? Those were some crazy years.

This year?


That’s my word.

The implications are manifold. And I want to believe this gift of a 2015 theme means my own writing dreams are about to come true.

They might.

But I suspect there is a lot more to my theme than book publication. I suspect God is planning to teach me a thing or two about chasing dreams… mine and Corey’s… the dreams of my children and friends…

Maybe there are some dreams I will have to let go of. Maybe there are new dreams to be embraced.

I won’t lie and say I’m not nervous. When I first heard the word in my head, I asked God to send confirmation. Because the word scared me. I’ll admit it. The year of Patience didn’t show my patience paying off. Rather, I found I needed more of it that I could ever dream of possessing. So the word dream made me worried… what if it means I will LOSE my dreams instead of making them come true?

The thing is, whether God gave me the theme or not, what will happen this year will happen. I may as well jump on board.

And, yes, again and again, the theme has been confirmed.

2015 is very definitely a year about dreaming.

Theme 2014: Oblation

My theme for 2014 is Oblation.

Cue everyone looking confused.

No one knows the word when I use it, so I promise you are not alone. I learned the word from Kathleen Norris years ago, but it is only common in certain circles. Typically, monastic circles. So, no worries. Here is the definition.

1. a thing presented or offered to God or a god.


religious offering, offering, sacrifice, peace offering, burnt offering, gift of thanks, first fruits, libation

Partially, this theme comes from my pursuing the path of an Oblate, but it is much and more than that. Even before I decided for sure to follow the oblate’s path, I was turning more and more to the habit of intentional devotion.

Now, when I say devotion, I don’t mean “devotional.” Doing a daily devotional reading can be PART of oblation, but it is not the sum of my meaning. I am talking more here. I am talking about spiritual disciplines. And I know that sounds like work. Discipline. It sure is work to discipline my children. Neither of us enjoy it.

This is different however. This is about choosing Jesus again and again and again. It is about reminding myself of my own vows, my own promises, my own first love.

It’s about turning first to Jesus when I want to turn to a book or a brownie or a phone call.

For me, this includes one major new practice.  Well, not new. It is an ancient practice and one I have been attempting to adopt for many months now. I mentioned it in a past post. I have been praying the hours. Okay, not all of the hours, but I am making the practice a part of my day. And I am learning a lot.

So, Oblation.


Bring what you will. I have my hopes. I have my suspicions. I will be surprised, disappointed, pleased, and baffled by the contents of your days.

I will be all of these things, but I will not be


And I will not be


Praying the hours brings both solitude and community in one fell swoop, something my introverted little heart has longed for and never thought possible.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a little more about my first epiphany of the year.

2013: That’s What He Said

Doesn’t my theme sound, well, less than holy this year?

I got an inkling of my theme way back at the beginning of 2012, when I was focusing on Mary. Something inside me stirred and continued stirring as the year flew past. Then I got an Amazon Vine email that contained Shane Claiborne’s newest book, Red-Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?

I adore Shane and have been convicted and spurred on to change by his books in the past. They are eye-openers, to say the least. The title of his newest spoke to that stirring in my soul, the part of me fed up with “church” and all of the craziness that is modern Christianity. I have embraced my inner skeptic and allowed myself to question and wrestle with my faith (or lack thereof) as this year drew to a close. I have felt torn open, laid bare, rubbed raw. I have asked myself if I could narrow my religion down, nail it to my heart with only the words of Christ.

What if I quit worrying about things Jesus never spoke of and focus entirely on the things He actually said? Even before seeing Shane’s new book title, I was fairly certain 2013’s theme would be focused on Jesus, on the actions He commanded and the lessons He taught. It seems fitting, doesn’t it? To pass simply from a year about Mary to a year about Jesus. She has, in essence, birthed him inside of me this year. Focusing on Mary helped me to focus on Jesus, to imagine her vast love for Him, her tenderness as she nursed and swaddled Him, her pain when He was taken away.

I want to know Jesus as intimately as Mary knew Him. I want to actually live with Him within me, as Mary did for those nine months. Can I serve Him as she served Him? Can I follow Him as she followed Him, even if that means kneeling at the foot of a cross, losing everything I was certain could not be lost? Can I serve Him even when I feel betrayed by Him, as Mary must have felt when He said to the crowd, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” How her heart must have broken in that moment. Can I bare that?

In 2013, I want to learn to live with Jesus’ words and also with His silence. So it is the year of That’s What He Said or, if you’d prefer a holier wording, it is 2013: The Red-Letter Year.

Happy New Year, friends. God’s blessing be upon you in whatever it may bring.