Mom Didn’t Raise Me to Be Like This

mama

Mom didn’t mean to raise me to be like this.

She didn’t raise me to be a bleeding heart liberal, someone who takes to the streets in protest of a President’s administration. She never dreamed I’d one day aspire to be a leader in the Church. She couldn’t have imagined I would be as idealistic as she is practical, or as fretful as she is reasonable.

I don’t know what my conservative, pragmatic mother expected me to become, but it definitely wasn’t this.

She even said so herself.

The other day, in the car on the way to look at wedding dresses, Mom looked at me and said, “I’m proud of the woman you are, but sometimes I look at you and wonder, ‘How did you turn out this way?’ You didn’t get any of this from me.”

On the surface, she’s right. We have different hobbies and interests. She was an athlete, and I’m an artist. She’s upfront, and I’m more meek. Most of her favorite shoes are black, and my favorite pair are my bright pink Chuck Taylors. Appearances, physical and otherwise, would suggest I got nothing from my mama.

But in reality, I got so much from her.

As a child, when she and Dad split up, and she found herself dealing with circumstances she never dreamed she’d have to confront, she did not cave in but pushed forward. She raised me on her own and gave me a household as stable and loving, if not moreso, as most two-parent families.

She taught me the world could not easily defeat me.

As a teenager, when I came home from school worried I was too quirky and different from my peers to fit in with them, she looked at me and asked, “Do you want to change for them?”

I thought about it, and I said, “No. I want to be myself and have them like me for it.”

Even though, as a teenager and even as an adult, this has been hard to live into, I do my best to be as true to my odd and sometimes awkward self as possible, and funny enough, I continue to find myself surrounded by lots of love.

She helped me realize who I am, and she taught me to be myself, unabashedly and unashamedly.

All through my life, Mom fostered in me a love for reading and learning. I read with feverish abandon, and the stories left their imprints on me. They helped me identify with people I’d never known, and they caused me to put myself into situations I hadn’t imagined. As a teacher’s daughter, I knew the importance of paying attention and participating in my education, so I talked with and listened to my own teachers to gain new insight about the world around me.

She taught me to value, uphold, and defend a variety of people and perspectives, even ones different from mine.

Those virtues and lessons, along with the multitude of others she has given me, made me into the passionate, bookish, vibrant, wannabe-troublemaker I am today.

So even though I answered her question with a typical, “I don’t know, Mama,” I accidentally told her a lie.

In the everyday actions of mothering, due to the very fact that she, Elizabeth Davis, is my mother, she shaped me into the woman I am today.

I am who I am because of her.

And I am forever thankful to her for the gift of helping me discover myself.

mommy

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Sorry I’m Late: Showing Up for Justice after Ignoring the Invitations

rsvp

Broomwithaview.com

I read recently how protesting and resisting systemic evil in Trump’s America is like finally showing up to a party after numerous invitations and delays.

Organizations like Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, the International Rescue Committee, and other activist groups have known of this corruption for a much longer time than most of us privileged people. Some were born into this system and have been pushing back from an early age. Others “got woke” and caught the memo as early as they could and jumped right into action.

I, on the other hand, showed up to this “party” beyond fashionably late.

I made plenty of excuses in the process, too.

I didn’t know if anyone I knew would be there. I didn’t know what to say when I showed up, because I didn’t know if I would understand what everyone was saying and didn’t want to make any more social faux pas than I already do.

I also didn’t know what to bring. Should I keep it cheap and bring a bag of chips or actually go through the effort of preparing a tasty entree? Should I buy a little gift on the way or make something crafty and impressive so everyone there would know my presence was legitimate?

I didn’t know how to deal with my own power and privilege in these contexts, either. I didn’t know if I could voice my insights or if I should let everyone else do the talking. Would I be too “white,” too “hetero,” or too privileged to even have a reason to be there? Would people think I was there to fulfill my Messiah-complex? Would I know if that was my reason?

More than being uncomfortable with messing up, though, I didn’t want to arrive needing to learn anything. I wanted to arrive fully prepared and ready to do everything just right, as if I were the host and the leader, not the one invited to be led.

So instead of being with and learning from those who are most oppressed, I read articles and posted tweets. I wrote about social justice from my perspective, and while I mentioned the marginalized, I didn’t learn too much about their own perspectives. When I did read their words, I let my own guilt and shame push me away from their pain instead of deeper into it.

Finally, after the election, I began to realize I no longer cared (as much) if I said or did the wrong things as long as I said and did something. I began to honestly acknowledge my role, not to lead and take over, but to follow and learn from those affected most by these evils.

I finally showed up to the party, and I felt a little awkward.

I arrived with my bag of chips in hand and a sheepish grin on my face, all apologetic for my tardiness, and tried to figure out how to take part in the festivities.

I know I don’t get the head seat, which as a natural leader bothers me. I don’t get to call all the shots, which as an outspoken person discomforts me. I have to listen and learn more than I interject and teach, and my desire to control and be “right” are going to make this so difficult and so necessary.

I am so terribly late, and it will take me a while to feel comfortable with the crowd. It’s going to take some time for me to stop berating myself for showing up as late as I did, and to own my lateness without letting it own me.

In that time, though, I will listen to, learn from, and live with those on the front lines as a no-longer absent ally.

So to those with whom I am marching, protesting, and resisting, who have been doing this work a lot longer than I: Thank you for the invitation and for still opening the door and welcoming me in when you had every right to tell me to hit the road. Thank you for giving me the grace to learn and be here with you.

I’m sorry ahead of time for the things I will say that will show how much learning about I still have to do. I’m sorry for the times I will unintentionally step on your toes and try to be the leader when I am called to be the follower. I can only hope you will forgive me and extend grace my way, even when I don’t deserve it, in your own way and time.

Above all, know I am here with you because you are made in the sacred image of God, and I want to honor the divinity within you as well as I can.

Thank you for letting me join with you as an ally.

To those in my shoes, all tied up in power and privilege, wanting to be part of this but unsure exactly how, get involved anyway you can. March, protest, talk to your representatives.

Most of all, talk with and be among those whom these policies most affect, because they will be the ones to lead these movements and make change happen, because their lives and livelihoods are on the line.

Listen to and learn from them. Don’t try to lead. Instead, follow. Let them be the leaders of their own movements. Be allies instead of saviors.

You’re going to make mistakes. Of course you are. We all do. Be quick to apologize, quick to learn, and quick to move forward.

May God be with us, and may we be with each other, in the victories and pitfalls.

*****

To learn more about being involved in social change as a privileged person, check out Christena Cleveland’s upcoming series, How to be last:  A practical theology for privileged people.

Communion in the Labyrinth: A Journey with Longing and Thanksgiving

labyrinth

It was chapel time on Thursday October 22, and my attending classmates and I were invited to walk up to the prayer labyrinth to take communion. This time, the ritual would be practiced differently; instead of taking communion before or after walking the labyrinth, we would take the meal with us to the labyrinth, and we would partake of it throughout our journey.

We took up a candle, our bread (including a gluten-free option) and grape juice, and two pieces of wood that would construct a table. When we arrived at the labyrinth, we stood in a semi-circle as our leader constructed the unsturdy-looking table, broke the bread, and blessed the cup. He broke off larger than usual chunks of the bread to place in our cupped hands. He then gave us the instruction to dip our bread in and partake in communion each time we passed the rickety table on our labyrinth walk. As we dipped the bread, we were to reflect on a deep yearning with which we have been wrestling. When we finally reached the center, we were to reflect on those things for which we were grateful.

My feet were itching to move, so moments after our leader finished the instructions, I found myself moving into the labyrinth, my hands still cupping my morsel of bread. I stood in front of the small table at the labyrinth’s entrance, and I dipped my bread in the cup and thought of my first great yearning: intimacy.

I put the juice-soaked piece of bread on my tongue, and as I thought about my desire for intimacy, I felt a moment of intimate connection with God in the meeting of Christ’s body and blood with my own body. I began walking through the labyrinth, reflecting on my desires for intimacy and from where they came. I desire greater intimacy with Bryce, with my family, with my friends, and with God (although I don’t know what that means to me anymore). I thought about the ways in which I push others away when the excitement of new relationships wears off and the harsh realities of putting in effort to sustain them becomes apparent.

Eventually, I passed the table again. I broke off another piece of bread, and I dipped it into the cup. As I partook of the meal, I thought of another great yearning: direction.

As I walked and chewed, I thought about my need to understand from where I have come in order to know where I am going. I want to understand the family that raised me, my Pennsylvania born-and-bred independent mother with her family of farmers. I want to understand my Arabic father, an immigrant and a man who knows how national conflicts can literally tear families apart, and the impact that his former absence and current presence has on me. I want to know what it means for me to follow God without following a specific tradition. I grew up in one congregation and now feel homeless and rootless, which is disheartening in a community of so many seemingly rooted people.

Once again, I passed the rickety table with the cup standing steady on top of it. Once again, I dipped the bread, and as I began to chew, I thought of another great yearning: solidarity.

As a rootless wanderer in the Church, I want someone to know and understand me as I am, someone who shares my journey, my questions, my fears, and my hopes and dreams for the Church and the world. I want to feel less alone, less like an anomaly in this Church that I have loved yet feels so foreign to me at times. I want to know that despite my lack of a “home,” others will take me in and love me as if I have always been part of the family.

Finally, I found myself at the entrance to the labyrinth’s center. I took my last bite of bread, dipped it into the cup, and ate my final meal. And as I did, I thought of another great yearning: a sense of belonging.

I want to know that there are people out there who want me to lead their congregations AND challenge their traditions, who want to embrace the outsiders AND see their place in God’s larger story, who value the stories of the Bible AND the works of Joss Whedon as tales that can teach us about the world in which we live. Is there a place for me in this large, wide world, in this large, wide Church to which I felt called long ago? Will anyone accept, listen to, or follow me as I am, or is my perception of the world and Church as large and welcoming something I’m kidding myself into believing?

With these and all of the other questions I had carried with me, I walked to the center. I looked out at the mountains in the distance and those continuing their journey around me. And I said thanks.

I said “Thank you” for those who didn’t let me run away, for those who stayed with me through it all, for those who have kept me anchored on earth when my head wanted to soar above the clouds, and for those who left and then came back. I said “Thank you” for EMS. I said “Thank you” for the things that have, are, and will be. I even said “Thank you” for the fact that life is full of despair, hope, death, and life, and it will always be this way until Kingdom come, and if for some reason Kingdom come still isn’t good enough for us, we will be well, and we need the darkness and light together. I said “Thank you” to Buffy, the Doctor, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, Joss Whedon, Steven Moffat, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and all of the other storytellers who helped me make sense of my journey.

After I said my thanks, I began my walk back. And as I walked through the labyrinth again, I realized not many of my questions had been truly answered, but I did walk out with a sense of peace and even understanding. By acknowledging and inviting my yearnings and the questions that come with them into the labyrinth with me, I was able to take them to the center and give thanks. I don’t think I was able to give thanks in spite of my questions, but because I felt free to let them live in me without a forceful answer.

I realized that it is possible to be thankful for the smooth paths and the struggles, the light and the dark. I realize this is a paradox, but what kind of theology isn’t to an extent? I’m starting to accept that paradox can be a part of my life without me trying to make perfect sense of it. Somehow, taking a journey with the things I most desire can result in me getting to the center and telling God “Thank you.” I don’t really know how this works, but I no longer need to know. At least for today, I am simply content to express my gratitude and keep on walking.

God is not a man.

All my life, God has been described as a Father.

Growing up, my religious upbringing taught me men were called to be providers and leaders, and this was because God revealed Himself as Father, as a He. Therefore, men were to model courage, leadership, and provision, while women modeled support, submission, and nurture.

My religious upbringing taught me this. Life showed me something entirely different.

Life provided me with way too many powerful women to simply accept this theology at face value. Life also threw many reasons my way to not trust God as Father.

While most children grew up in homes with a male provider, this title was held solely by my Mama. She was the one who sacrificed for me. She was my caretaker and friend. She was present and loving, but firm and gave me space. Right off the bat, I was exposed to a woman who modeled provision and leadership.

And then there’s my Gammy, the matriarch with subtle but impressive power. She is kind and compassionate and loves us dearly, but she is firm and puts us in our place when we step out of line. She’s the one who will buy me a book on youth ministry just because she saw it at a store, yet will command my cousin Michael to write his graduation thank-you notes instead of putting them off and looking ungrateful. She is the rock of our family, preserver of our memories, the one we all look to for hope and strength. She was also a leader, and as a woman who worked three jobs, helped support a farm alongside my Poppy, and helped to raise six kids, you can be certain she’s one brave and strong lady, too.

My aunts also modeled this subversive idea of gender roles. They devoted their love and attention to me, along with their wisdom. They taught me how when life becomes most difficult, you have to find the will to keep going. They taught me the importance of family bonds, and how family will never leave you. I called my aunt Leslie at least once a week in middle school when I came home overwhelmed by unexplainable anxiety, knowing she could offer me words of comfort and consolation. I called my aunt Karen after a nasty break-up, knowing she had been through a very similar one when she was my age. I called my aunt Kim when I started Zoloft, because she was on it and had encouraged me to try it long ago. They were some of my earliest cheerleaders and most loving confidants.

My friends gave me a community of fun, laughter, encouragement, and love. Emily stayed by my side beginning in preschool. Beth put a card on my door when my Poppy was in the hospital. My college friends wrote me a book of love, support, and wisdom in the midst of a bad relationship. These women called me out when I was being ridiculous, held me during my struggles, and cracked jokes at me so I wouldn’t take myself so seriously. They showed me community and unconditional love and support.

My teachers and leaders shared their wisdom, attention, inspiration, and empowerment. Ms. Williamson showered me with devotion and care. Mrs. Pitcock continued to draw out my love of English and writing and humor. Mrs. Clouse listened to my stories day after day in her class, and she was the first one to witness me pass out after talking about blood.

These women shaped my life, faith, and future. They inspired, empowered, and encouraged me. They gave me hope, love, and strength.

Now when I hear God described as provider, I think of my mother. When I think of the strong yet subtle voice of God, I hear my Gammy. When I think of God’s Kingdom of community, I think of my friends and family. When I hear stories of the God of empowerment and inspiration, I remember the leaders and teachers who drew out my dreams and destiny.

But the men were a different story for the most part.

My father had been absent for most of my life. He was little more than a memory to me, yet I was supposed to identify God as a Father. And my stepfather aloof and unfaithful, so together, these two did not give me the best idea of God the Father.

If God was Father, could He leave at any given time? Could He deem me unlovable and unworthy just for the sake of my existence? Did this mean I had to impress Him to keep Him around? Would He grow weary of me? Would He just stop caring and go off to someone else whom He deemed “better?”

For so long, I thought that since these men had failed me, all men had failed me. Since I didn’t know love from them, I could not know love from any men. And if God was a man, I certainly couldn’t know love from Him.

But then I looked at my Poppy, the man who was firm and stern but whose eyes lit up whenever his grandkids came to visit. Then I met my father, a man whose compassion for others and open mind and heart inspire me to stretch my arms a little wider to embrace those around me. Then I learned from my high school teachers and college professors. Mr. Tillman, to this day the teacher of the most difficult class I’ve ever taken, encouraged me to keep on going with his class, even though I was almost failing it. I have never been more proud of a final B+ grade, and I still have the first A+ paper I received in his class.  Mr. Belkin and Prof Watson stretched my mind and challenged me to think boldly and for myself. Bryce showed me immense and unconditional love, attention, grace, compassion, and gentleness, first in our friendship and now in our relationship, and they have done glorious wonders for my soul. He was also one of the first people to tell me to pursue ministry, writing, and leadership, even before I was willing to fully admit that I wanted to pursue those fields.

These men showed me love, grace, and strength. They shared with me their wisdom and ideas, but they didn’t impose them on me. They were gentle and compassionate but knew what they stood for and did not give in. They embraced and loved me for who I am, who I was, and who I was becoming.

I began to recognize the image of God in them, the image I had for so long recognized in women. I recognize in them the image of our Creator, who loves me for me, who is always with me and for me, and who abides in infinite love and grace.

If we’re both made in the image of God, God cannot be a man. Or even a woman. God gave us God’s characteristics, both male and female.

God is bigger than gender.

I see God in men and women. I see God in the men who stay at home and the women who provide. I see God in the women who lead and the men who follow. I see God in “traditional gender roles,” and I see God in the “not-so-traditional roles.” I see God in the ones who acknowledge the dignity of others. I see God in those who empower and love others. This isn’t confined to a gender. It can’t be.

I see God in my friend Jess and in Bryce, in my Mom and my Dad, my Gammy and my Poppy, Prof. Watson and Dr. Trupe, Mr. Tillman and Mrs. Pitcock, Mr. Belkin and Ms. Williamson, Kim and Mike, Tracy and Tony.

It was never either/or. It was always and/both. It was always meant to be open to all. It was always meant to be all about love.

We all carry God’s image. How we show it is all up to us. Dogma and doctrine can’t control or fence this in. The Spirit moves us, empowers us, inspires us to be who we are made to be: Restorers of Creation. We all do this. We all have our gifts and strengths, hopes and dreams, whether we are man or woman.

Be the image. Restore the world. Share the love.

Community in Carpooling: Lessons My Dead Car (and Living Community) Taught Me

car

http://www.cardomain.com/ride/135463/2000-pontiac-grand-am/

I knew that fateful February day in 2009, when Mom and I first brought home my 2001 Pontiac Grand Am GT, that it was not long for this world.

The first day, Mom and I found coolant leaking onto the pavement, so I couldn’t even take it back to Bridgewater for another week. In May, right before finals week, it overheated while I was driving on 81 and had to stay in the shop for almost two weeks. To this day, I still feel resentment when I think of watching all of my friends head home for their first college summer break in properly functioning cars while I sat in my empty, packed up room waiting for my car to get me home safely again. At least twice a year after these instances, the car would overheat on me and need more coolant, usually during the most inconvenient times. One such instance saw me briefly stranded at Bridgewater (again) on the last day of classes before Thanksgiving break. I swear that vehicle hated going home…

It was dangerous to go on long trips (beyond 2 hours) with it. The only trips I ever felt comfortable taking with it were to and from BC, home, NOVA, and basic errands, and even those didn’t guarantee an overheat-free journey. I constantly needed a container of coolant in my trunk, lest I find myself unprepared and stuck on the side of the road praying for a miracle to keep my car going. And perhaps the worst part: having to blast the heat in already scorching summer weather to keep the engine at a normal temperaature.

This car could really put me through hell.

And almost 2 weeks ago, it landed on its deathbed at an AAMCO shop, diagnosed with a fatal cracked head gasket that would cost at least $1600 to repair. Which would be way too much to invest in a car that is already worth half its value (or less) due to the previously mentioned issues.

While I resented this car’s problems in the duration of our time together, I was nonetheless saddened by its demise. In good times and bad, the car had gotten me from Point A to Point B in semi-reliable fashion, and for that I was eternally grateful. However, more than despair, I felt anxiety. How would I get to my two jobs throughout the week? How would I hang out with people and get to church? How would I get groceries or go to the bank? In short, I was seriously worried for my life without this panic-attack-inducing car. Because a hazardous car was better than no car at all. For a long time, I thought this car essentially held the keys to my survival.

And while I knew that other people I knew had cars and open schedules, an extrovert like me has some strong introverted tendencies. one of the strongest being that I don’t like to initiate conversations. Once they are initiated, I’m all in and am more than happy to talk the other person’s ear off, but usually, I tend to let people come to me. Combine that with my fear of rejection and vulnerability to others, both of which are probably co-related, and I found myself in quite the pickle.

Because the moment I realized my car was essentially dead, I realized I didn’t have the option of keeping to myself and not leaping out of my comfort zone anymore. My life immediately became more dependent on the provisions of others, which involved me being vulnerable and someone being receptive. And over a week into this, my car’s demise has taught me a lot about community.

Being vulnerable and open with others about this basic necessity of getting from Point A to Point B has led me to make beautiful connections in the most simple, everyday tasks. Going to the grocery store with my dear friend and former roommate Candace allowed us time to catch up while also finding an awesome Pandora station full of hilarious Broadway tunes. Carpooling to my friends Ali and Andy’s wedding allowed me to properly catch up with some awesome housemates I hadn’t seen in at least a year. I even got to connect with my manager at Bed Bath and Beyond when he graciously gave me a ride home after work one evening when no one else was available. And my roommate Erin showed deep trust in me when she let me borrow her own car so I could take Laney, my Little, to celebrate her last day of 7th grade by going to see Epic.

Suddenly, my solo commutes spent in the company of cruddy pop music and even more cruddy radio ads became times of catch up and bonding with some amazing people. The minutes I would spend driving to errands, letting my mind aimlessly wander through my seemingly never-ending to-do list, became times of sharing my dreams, fears, joys, and so much more with others, and they shared with me, all in the midst of checking off our routine checklists.

Basically, losing my car, and with it a small piece of my own independence, thrust me into the loving embrace of my community in a way I never imagined.

And through these experiences, I’m learning more and more that community is a lot about getting out of my own head and coming back to reality, a reality that demands my complete presence with myself, my surroundings, and others. I’m learning that it’s about figuring out who I am in the loving embrace of people who are here with me and for me by showing up when I need them most. In this community, we make room for each other by adjusting work and personal schedules and arranging rides in the midst of our already busy lives. Now, I get a little giddy when I get a ride arranged, because I know it’s time with someone I love dearly and who loves me enough to help me out when I’m in a rut. It builds trust and love, and through their devotion, these amazing people have shown this insecure girl that she is loved and worthy of being around. Sharing my stories on car rides and having these amazing people share their own stories with me reminds me of the sacredness of being close and open with others, of knowing I am being trusted and that I can trust them. Whether we are sharing joys and struggles in relationships, wisdom we’ve learned from recent or past experiences, or simply chatting about favorite Disney movies and making a trip to Sweet Frog, these commutes bind us closer together and build foundations for deeper relationships. For a girl with abandonment/trust issues and intense insecurities, these are gifts that keep on giving.

And they have shown me that life abundant isn’t in having everything; it’s in everyone sharing what they already have. These amazing people have shared their vehicles and, more importantly, their time and lives with me, and it is amazing just how much we can take care of each other if we simply shift our perspectives and schedules to intentionally make room for each other. Our daily routines hold so much opportunity for showing love to others if we simply allow time and space to embrace these opportunities instead of letting them wander by in the name of “getting stuff done.”

I like to think this is a big part of what God meant in describing Himself as the God who Provides. So instead of placing my trust in one of my own possessions, and even my own routine, I have now placed more trust in the loved ones who live, breathe, love, and provide for me with what they have received and for what they make room. 

So while I still get a big thrill in those now rare instances of driving on my own, and being allowed to surf through any radio station I want, and feel the freedom of driving on my own without wondering who will pick me up next, I still harbor deep joy in my carpool community, in the daily sharing, caring, and love that is always evident.

Because this community has both affirmed that I am someone worth loving and serving, and in doing so, have reminded me that all I encounter are worthy of the same love and grace that has been shown to me. And that is one of the biggest lessons a loving community can teach any one of us.

Two of my dear friends from the amazing nation of New Zealand posted this on their Facebook profiles today. To be entirely honest, I don’t know exactly what it “means.” What I do know is, it’s beautiful, and peaceful, and it kind of makes me want to cry for some reason.

In more honesty, I watched this video because I wanted to write on my blog today and had no idea about what to write. I figured a video featuring the moon would hold some inspiration, and amazingly enough, it did.

I want this blog to hold my thoughts and dreams, but more than that, I want my writing to inspire, lead, encourage, and comfort others. Yes, writing parts of my story can help people in that, but I don’t want it to be all about “me” in that. Instead, I want this blog to give back to those who have given me so much, who have given me love and support and encouragement in so many ways.

So in this time, I want to say thank you, and here is how this little film inspired me to do this.

The light that the moon gives off is merely a reflection of the sun’s light reflecting off of the moon (or something like that. I’m sure there’s a more scientific way to explain this, but science is not my thing. Not because I don’t respect or “believe” science, but because I equate it with math in things that simply baffle me).

So essentially, the people in this film are illuminated because the sun illuminated the moon. The moon needs the sun’s light in order to give us light in the night. In the same way, I believe that in order for each and every one of us to shine light and love on others, we must first have light and love shone on us.

It’s the reason that the “receive love” on our RISE T-shirts comes before the “give love.” You cannot give of what you do not have.

So here’s a shout out to some of the brightest suns in my life, who have shone their light on me so that I may shine it in return:

Mommy: From day one, you have shone strength, sacrifice, love, and support. I would not be the woman I am today without you, and I am so thankful for your example.

Dad: Having you back in my life, hearing your stories, and seeing how much you are a part of me has opened my world to more than I could ever imagine.

Layan, Razan, and Sami: I always dreamed of being a big sister. And while I don’t see you as often as I’d like, you have taught me the joy of being both a doting friend and an obnoxious prankster.

Gammy: Your love, whimsy, and wisdom have carried me through the darkest and most joyful of times.

My aunts, uncles, and cousins: You have always bee there when I have fallen, either because you knocked me down for a laugh or because I had fallen and couldn’t get up. Either way, you were always there to love and support me, and with lots of laughs and great memories!

Bryce: You have believed in me even when I would not believe in myself. And you have stayed when I have wanted to run.

My dearest and most loyal friends: You have been there with me through tears of laughter and tears of pain. And you have taught me so much about life and love and living through it all.

RISE Faith Community: You have illuminated in me the leader I always dreamed of being but never dared to try to be before.

My past faith communities: You have shown me love and The Source of Love always, and even when I couldn’t receive Him, you still modeled Him for me.

My Little Sister Laney and my Sister2Sister girls: You have opened my eyes and arms to loving and embracing you for who you are and as you are, and in doing so, you have helped me to embrace myself for who I am and as I am.

My S2S mentors: You have shown me the joy involved in making new friendships and how important persistence and consistency is in all things.

My friends from various trips, workplace experiences, and foreign visits: You have taught me the importance of working together, being with and for each other, and seeing things in new and beautiful ways.

To all of you and so many more, in the immortal words of Anne Lammott…

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Full Moon Silhouettes