Apr 302015
 

Friends, remember my trip to the Dominican Republic when I met our favorite holy rascal, Denisse? Remember how she brought together a team of hope spreaders to walk the streets,  gather the precious children of Boca Chica and give them the love, safety and future that is every child’s birthright?

Allow me to introduce you to another member of Denisse’s team. Meet Julito.

Julito

When Julito was seven years old,  he started working long hours on the streets of Boca Chica as a shoe shiner. When he was 14, he joined Caminante. Julito is now a multiplier, a staff member at Caminante, one of the rescued. Denisse and Caminante found him—they gave Julito hope and a future. And so now, years later, as soon as the sun starts to set, Julito starts walking these same streets, looking for little ones who need hope and a future, like he did once.

One night, Julito let me walk with him.

Streets at night

. . . I follow behind Julito through the streets of the city—past table after table of middle-aged white men—sitting in groups beckoning little girls to their tables. These little ones are Tish’s age, maybe Amma’s. They are exactly what these men have traveled from all over the world to find. I watch one precious child approach a table. The men smile at her. She smiles back, and then hangs her head, shyly, as her chin tucks into her chest. She has learned this move. My heart stops. But then Julito walks by and sees her. He calls her away from the table, away from the men. He calls her by name. Her head lifts and she becomes a little girl again. She runs over to Julito and he tells her she needs to get home so she can get some sleep. The little girl tells him that she’s not allowed to go home until she’s earned her money. This, what she’s doing at that table –  is what’s expected of her. Denisse nods, opens her purse and hands the little girl a few coins. She smiles and runs away. She runs home. This one has a home to run to. Many we saw on the street and the beach did not. . .

Julito

You can’t see the little boys at first—they seem to be hiding. But when they see Julito they run out onto the street or up to him on the beach—they show themselves. They grab onto Julito’s leg and he asks what they’ve eaten. I don’t know what they say back, I can’t understand. They run away. Where are their parents? I ask. We don’t know. Who takes care of them? They take care of themselves, and we help. Where do they sleep? They sleep where they can sleep. Can I see?

Alley
This is where they sleep. On the right side, on the concrete. They curl up next to each other for warmth.

***************************

Now I need you to stop for a second and track with me here. We are about to laugh. Get ready. It’s okay.

On our last night in Boca Chica—we were eating together and Julito leaned over towards me, placed his phone super close to my face, and snapped a picture. Then he sat back in his chair and started playing with his phone. I looked at Luciano, our friend and a CWS Program Officer, and said, “Huh? What was that for?” Luciano leaned over towards Julito and asked him in Spanish what was going on. Julito started explaining something while Luciano nodded and nodded. Then Luciano turned toward me and said: “So, here’s what happened. Julito’s got a girlfriend. He took a picture of you to send to her so she’ll know he’s not out with some young, hot babe. You know, he just wants to show her that you’re not a threat.”

I WILL JUST GIVE YOU SOME TIME TO PROCESS THIS. I know I needed a moment.

“Wait. What?” I said. Luciano’s eyes widened as he processed the news he’d just delivered to me:  THAT I WAS OFFICIALLY ZERO THREAT TO OTHER WOMEN. THE INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE OF THIS: A PICTURE OF MY FACE.

I looked over at Amy, who was looking back at me with what was supposed to be a sympathetic smile  – but it was hard not to notice that she was shaking. Her entire body was shaking with laughter.

Who knew? I said to Amy. It’s all over for me.

I didn’t know, either. Amy said. I had no idea, I promise. I would have told you. I thought we were still hot. I really did.

And then you guys: I turned to Julito and Luciano and said the following: I WILL HAVE YOU KNOW THAT I USED TO BE A MAJOR THREAT. I WAS WILDLY THREATENING. UNBELIEVABLY THREATENING. I WAS—FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES: AN UNREGISTERED WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION. THIS FACE—THREAT! HUGE THREAT!

And Luciano looked terrified. His eyes widened and he started backpedaling fast…”Yes! You’re a threat! To someone like me, who is closer to your age! Just not to Julito, because he is young! But you could be a HUGE THREAT to someone who is older! HUGE THREAT! YES! HUGE!”

With this, I swear to you, Amy fell off her chair.

And Julito just looked at us with a face that said: Americans are odd.

Listen. The point is this: upon hearing the news that I was no longer a threat to other women, I felt sad. I felt terrified that I’d just been deemed . . . I don’t know: obsolete. HOW WEIRD IS THAT? Later that night, I lay in bed and tried to figure out how this declaration of Julito’s was tied to my experience in Boca Chica, with the hurting ones.

And it hit me.

Actually: I have never been a bigger threat in my life. It’s just that now I am finally wise enough to want to be the right kind of threat. Now that I’m not wasting my time and energy and money and heart and mind trying to be a threat to other women—I’m ready to become A Real Threat to things that SHOULD BE THREATENED.

Listen. I have made us a list. This is what I know. I know that I want to spend my life as a REAL THREAT to the following things:

Sisters: let’s not buy the lie being sold to us: that we should waste our one precious life and one brilliant mind and one beautiful body threatening each other. NOT BUYING IT.

I do not want to be a threat to you. I want to invite you to join arms with me and together I want US to become a REAL THREAT TO what needs changing. I want us to be WARRIORS together—for love, truth, peace, justice, children, the weak, the poor and the needy. Tweet: Let's be WARRIORS together—for love, truth, peace, justice, children, the weak & the needy. @momastery @cws_global http://ctt.ec/JXYiq+ I want apathy and fear and violence and poverty to SHAKE IN THEIR BOOTS WHEN THEY SEE US MARCHING TOGETHER TOWARDS THEM.

Let’s Walk Together and threaten the hell out of pain in this world.

The older I get, the wiser I get. The wiser I get—the bigger threat I become. Tweet: The older I get, the wiser I get. The wiser I get—the bigger threat I become. @momastery http://ctt.ec/d9CH8+

HALLEFREAKINGLUJAH.

G

PS What about you? What’s on your list? To what do YOU want to be a threat????

PPS Like the CWS Facebook page to get updates on the emergency response they’ve mobilized this week in response to the earthquake in Nepal, and to read more stories from people like Denisse and Julito around the world who are being lifted up through their support.

 

Apr 282015
 

Because I’m both a proud supporter of GLAAD and a children’s minister, kids struggling with their sexuality/ gender identity and the church write to me sometimes. I think they sense that since much of their pain has originated from the church, they need their healing to come from the church too. I get that. Makes sense.

These precious ones’ stories are usually similar. One child recently described himself to me as transgender, and then went on to say that he feels both male and female. He’s just not sure. He’s unsure and he’s living in a world of people who seem to be sure and who fear uncertainty. Kids at school tease him and his church kicked his family out because this child’s being was causing “too much confusion.”  This is an especially sad development, because he is now starting to doubt that God loves him. People are leaving scripture on his doorstep to prove to this child that he’s an abomination. He is distraught, but, even so, he’s been reaching out to other transgender kids online–encouraging them to keep living. His parents are loving but confused and afraid.  You can imagine—this is hard all around. I felt such compassion for all of them—for this family and all of the ones who write to me. I always write back, even though I feel scared and unprepared and unqualified. I write back because somebody’s got to, and I’m the one on the other end of the email. I’m sure what I write to these kids isn’t perfect. But I’m trying. I’m trying not to let the fact that I don’t know how to love them perfectly keep me from loving them at all.

Anyway—here are a few excerpts of letters I’ve sent to these precious ones. Thought now might be a good time to share.

************************************

Hey, J. G Here.

Holy texts are like shovels—some use them to dig up the earth and plant new seeds and some use them to bang people over the head. Most of us do both.

Let’s dig, J.

Check out this scripture. It’s from right there in the beginning- the beginning of the Bible about the beginning of time.

So God created mankind in His own image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

J, did you catch that? It says that when God wanted to create people in God’s own image, God needed to create two genders to express God’s self fully. Could that mean that God’s image is both male and female, too? Both, J? Just like you? Maybe God is just like you, J.

Listen, J:

You need to remember that being rejected by church is not the same as being rejected by God. God did not kick you out of church, honey. The church kicked God out of church. Listen—I love the church, J. I spend every extra minute I have in mine. But I am here to tell you that the church is not God. You are more God than the church is, J—because you are made in God’s image: while the church is an institution. God loves you more than any institution He/She made for you, J. When folks decide they love any institution more than the individual souls inside them—they’re missing the mark. I love the church, J—but I love you more. If I’m forced to choose, I choose you and your heart every day and twice on Sundays. Just as God made you. Just as God made you.

And listen J: not only is your church not God, but your church does NOT officially represent God, either. There is no one church that represents God. If you still want church—you can have one. There are churches all over the place (I know because I serve one and speak at them all over the country) that already have places set for you at their table. You must look out and look around, J. A small worldview is deadly, especially for you. You need to think bigger than your church, bigger than your school, bigger than your town.

But while you’re thinking big, J—you still need to love small. Sweet J—please allow me to say this one thing. As I read your letter, I felt such compassion for your mother. I know she hasn’t responded like you hoped she would. Based on my own experience and what I’ve gathered from mamas all over the world I offer you this: your mama loves you. Fiercely and deeply and truly. Sometimes when you love someone like a mother loves her child—that love can turn into fear. It happens to me all the time. I am so afraid that the world will not be kind to my children. And so, J, I imagine that your mother is not afraid of you, but for you. She is so afraid that this world will not accept you that she may have decided that she has a better chance of changing you than she does of changing the whole world. Soon she will remember that she is your world, and if she accepts you first, then that’s a helluva good start. But I want to tell you something and I hope you don’t feel betrayed by me—I understand your mama’s fear. She just wants you to be okay, honey. Being a mom is so terrifying and lonely. You have a hard call and so does she. So does she.

This is my hunch, J. Your mom’s biggest fear is not that you are different, but that you are not going to be okay. Her fear will subside when she believes that you’re okay. The only way to convince her that you are okay, J, is to ACTUALLY BE OKAY. Listen, here’s the trick and please read this carefully. Whether or not you ever feel like you belong down here LARGELY DEPENDS ON YOU.

“Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” 
―Brené Brown.

Hear that? Starts with you. Starts with you, J. Do you believe you’re okay? I do.

So I don’t know, honey. Maybe you’ve been chosen to be a hand-raiser, to grow our circle. To help take our ideas about who’s in and who’s out wider and wider. Someday we will get so wide that ALL will be included and we will collectively come to that enlightened state when we all finally see, understand and accept that WE ARE ALL ONE. One day we will finally see that when we reject any person or group of people–we reject a part of our very selves. ALL are one. ALL are in. ALL are God’s beloved children with a place at the table. Then it will be On Earth as it is in heaven.  What if you’ve been called to move us forward toward heaven? It really feels to me like maybe you have.  Will you lead us with love? Will you see past our fear and calmly and solidly stand your ground? Will you claim your identity as child of God as enough? You are the one who decides. It’s not fair to carry this responsibility but few people called to be great request the job first. Lead us, J. The great ones don’t wait until it’s fair to show up. They show up and make it fair. Tweet: The great ones don’t wait until it’s fair to show up. They show up and make it fair. @momastery http://ctt.ec/w8x0A+

Put this poem on your wall, okay? Along with the scripture in the beginning?

God Says Yes to Me
by Kaylin Haught
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

J, God says YES to you. God is FOR you and God made you just as you are and God says yes even when God’s beloved institutions are screaming NOT YET. And so these questions are from me.

God, is it okay that J is confused about his gender and sexuality? YES!

Is it okay if J wears a tie one day and a skirt the next? YES!

Is it okay if while wearing a skirt and nail polish J loudly and proudly and without reservation, declares himself/herself to be a unique, unrepeatable, sparkling child of God? YES!

Is it okay if J forgives his mom before she figures all this out? YES!

Is it okay for J to forgive his church? To say: I am not going to take on your fear—but I forgive you for being afraid. I look forward to the day we can meet on the path again. Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes.

That is how I’m going to pray for you and your mama, J. With so many YESES.

Dear God,

Whisper YES to J and YES to his mama. And please don’t dare change one hair on his head. Change the whole rest of the world instead.

 Posted by at 11:37 am  Comments Off on Think Big, Love Small
Apr 242015
 

The Key Jar

Smart parents give their children a million answers. Wise parents ask their children a million questions. And so smart parents might know, but wise parents understand.

I love it when someone asks me a thoughtful question for three reasons. First, it shows that the other person cares enough to try to get to know me. Second, it shows curiosity – which is one of my favorite traits. Third, a thoughtful question offers me the opportunity to unlock rooms inside myself I’ve never explored before.

Getting to know ourselves and others is the greatest adventure. We are explorers of ourselves and the people we love. Love is the ongoing process of unlocking each other and keeping safe whatever we find. Thoughtful questions are the keys we use to do the unlocking and safekeeping.

Besides myself and Craig – there are three people I want to understand more than I want anything else in the world. Their names are Chase, Tish, and Amma. These three are beautiful mysteries and loving them is the greatest adventure of my life. I just want to spend my whole life exploring their hearts and minds. So I do all the right things. I plan for exploring time: Family Dinners! Dates with mommy! Perfect. But then I sit down with my kid. There we are, looking at each other over a table with nothing between us but open space and time and love . . .  and I cannot think of a single interesting thing to ask them. I got nothing. I’m a mother, so I’m tired. It’s just impossible to be creative when you’re tired. And so here’s what I end up saying: “So – how was your day?” Every parent knows that this rusty “how was your day” key doesn’t work but we keep trying it because it’s the only one we can find.

The trouble is that keys are only useful if you can get your hands on them.

SO LISTEN. I have good news. A few months ago – Tish’s teacher sent home a “Conversation Jar” filled with interesting questions that the students in Tish’s class created.  I put this jar on the kitchen table and a few times a week, we take turns pulling out a question during dinner. THIS JAR HAS MAGICAL POWERS. It’s been months now and still, every time we open it – everyone at the table wakes up a little bit. Little eyes flicker back to life, folks sit up straight in their seats, the arguing stops, and it’s all “me firsts! Can I answer first, mom??” Even the tween, people. Even the tween. People want to be known. People want to be known so badly.

Question JarAnd so I reach in and pull out a key: “If you were an inventor – what would you invent, and why?” And then it’s quiet for a moment. Everyone makes her thinking face. They are searching themselves. They are looking inside to see what they’ll find and as soon as they find it: there it is – their hands fly up and they say: “I know I know!!” And then they pull something out of themselves that they didn’t even know was there. Look! Look what I found inside of me! And the family laughs or nods and either way we are saying: wow, that is so cool. I didn’t even know that about you! I didn’t even know that room inside of you existed. There are a billion little rooms inside each of your children that remain locked up, unexplored, and a good question can lead you right inside. Tweet: There are a billion rooms inside each child—a good question is the key to unlock them & enter right in. @momastery http://ctt.ec/debF2+

I love this jar because it livens up our evenings and helps me know my babies better – but it doesn’t end there. HERE IS AN IMPORTANT PART: Kids who learn to be self aware tend to become others aware and world aware. We want our children to understand themselves, the people in their lives, and the world they live in. This kind of awareness is what makes a good citizen. So we’ve written questions that unlock awareness on all three levels. You will notice that some of these questions ask a child to look within (What was your first thought when you woke up today?), others ask her to consider her peers (Who in your class seems lonely?) and others ask her to look at the world (What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our world today?). Kids must become explorers of themselves first, and then their eyes open to other people in their lives. It’s a process, teaching curiosity, awareness and compassion. This jar is a start.

I wanted to give you this gift for Mothers’ Day. I said to myself: SELF! WE ARE GOING TO TEACH THE WORLD HOW TO MAKE THIS MAGICAL JAR! But then I picked it up and as soon as I realized ribbon was involved—I decided I was out of my league. But then I remembered that I might not have ribbon, but I HAVE MY COUSIN, ERIN.

FRIENDS, MEET ERIN!!!!!

Erin Waters

Hello! It is so nice to meet you all today. Listen, I’ve never been a lucky person, but I truly hit the jackpot when I married my husband and won the family that came along with him. Shortly after meeting, Glennon and I developed a quick connection, bonding over our shared love of writing and teaching (the heart-ish side of it, not the craft-ish side of it, because: ribbons).

As a teacher, I often hear parents lament that their children, when asked what they did at school today, reply, “Nothing.”

Every morning, when I think about how much “nothing” I want to accomplish with my school kiddos, I return to this Dalai Lama quote again and again:

“It is vital that when educating our children’s brains,
we do not neglect to educate their hearts.”

This quote has lived in my teacher heart for awhile, and it now resides in my mama heart. And it lives in this jar.

The Key Jar

The Key Jar

Sure, these questions will jump start their tiny thinking caps, but more importantly, these little keys will unlock what lives in their hearts. The amazing thing about a key is that it has the ability to unlock doors but at the same time keep things safe. As a mom and a teacher, I can’t think of a better way to keep our people safe than to KNOW them. Knowing what makes them love, hurt, feel, help, and dream is the best safekeeping we’ve got.

The Key JarSo, this jar. You guys, it is so very simple:

  1. Click here to download the jar kit and the questions.
  2. Print the questions and cut them apart.
  3. Place the questions in a jar like this, and keep that jar handy for the sacred shared moments with your kids.
  4. Watch the nothings become everythings.

You’ll notice there are 2 sets of questions. That’s because once you realize the beauty that is this jar, you will want to carry it everywhere with you. But we can’t do that. People might talk.

Instead, print out that second set and find your fanciest Ziploc baggie. Voila – Car conversations have never been so simple.

*************************

You guys, I think sometimes the reason we don’t know what’s going on in each other’s lives is that we don’t ask.

Will you try this with us? And if you comment: could you leave a question that might be a key to a special place in a kids’ heart that might go otherwise unopened? We’ll keep them all for when we all need Key Jar refills!

HAPPY EXPLORING!
G and Erin

 

PS Isn’t Erin remarkable? You can find more of her inspiring teaching tools here. Also, did you notice? No ribbon. She loves me.

 

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