waves

I was so mad at him. I was mad the whole trip. It was my first visit to Hawaii, what should have been a perfect (beta) honeymoon – tropical beaches, fruity drinks, and romance. But I was pissed. I don’t remember why.

Did I make the right call? We had the best night in Vegas just a few days before. Laughing and running through the strip – in ridiculous clothes in a ridiculous city. Sipping champagne from the liquor store after saying a few words in a little white chapel that sealed our fates together. But was that the right call? 25. 25? I thought I’d be older, gotten more done. But 25, sulking immature on the beaches of Kauai.

It would be a bumpy road getting to that isolated beach. We had our snorkeling gear tossing around the back of the burgundy jeep, up and down the impossible road. It should have been a sign.

And then finally we got there. Hardly anyone there in paradeise, white white sand and blue blue waves. Giant black overwhelming cliffs just beyond. In the shadows of Mordor.

He was out paddling around and I was settling myself into the sand, not bothering to read. I was too annoyed to do much.

Geez, why was I so annoyed?

Finally, I approached the shore. He beckoned me in. I was nervous about the waves. He said he’d be there for me. He’d be there, of course.

The water was nice, warm and everything you’d want Hawaiian water to be. I had my cheap blue neon sunglasses on. One minute we were jumping around and holding each other and the next… a huge wave and I was knocked out. My bikini bottoms floated by my ankles and my sunglasses long gone. I made it to the surface, out of breath. Where was he? He told me he’d be here. I was alone. My previous anger shot up exponentially.

“BRAD! BRAD!”

Where was he? Was he hiding? Was he playing a trick? Huffing and puffing, I got out. And I couldn’t see him. I strained my eyes and scanned the waves. He wasn’t there.

BRAD!

BRAD!

Where was he? He said he’d be here.

Ten minutes went by. I started screaming.

The waves took him.

I couldn’t see him. There was no one there.

I’m alone. I start screaming bloody murder.

Please Jesus, please.

Then in the farthest distance, I see him. He waves at me. I am only slightly relieved, he was so so far away I could barely see him.

I tried to figure out how much time had passed at this point. How long I’d been screaming before I could see him. How long it took from the time I saw him to him getting closer. I have no clue. It could’ve been 5 minutes, it could’ve been an hour.

It was hell.

I finally saw him get closer and I ran, stupidly, into the water. I was knee deep, when another one hit. I was slammed by a wave, a mac truck I should’ve seen coming. I didn’t know how to swim. I tumbled and tumbled. I broke the surface. And then another huge wave, several feet over my head hit again. I took a giant breath. Tumbled and tumbled, not knowing which way up.

All I could think:

Jesus. Please Jesus. Please Jesus. Rescue me.

I broke through.

Another wave.

Jesus, please Jesus.

Finally, I broke through without another wave engulfing me. Gladly, Brad was so close, on the beach. The water was to my ankles. He reached out his hand, “c’mon babe.”

I couldn’t move my feet. That current was so strong, the water was at my ankles! And I couldn’t move my feet.

Jesus, please Jesus.

Finally, something in the water broke (and I along with it) and I walked out. Collapsed into my husband on that beach. Shaking and shaking and shaking.

That day, I thought that I would never see my husband again. I thought he was dead. As soon as relief came over me, that’d he’d be okay, I thought I was going to die. That I’d never see my husband again. My mom. My brother. My best friend. Something so real shifted that day. All the crevices in my body were filled with fear, and slowly that fear took over absolutely everything for years. Panic attack after panic attack. Seeing a beach in a movie, driving on the coast, even thinking about waves – sent me into spinning debilitating anxiety that would paralyze me for days. All the breath and life that those waters threatened to take that day were eventually taken away, slowly and bit by bit. What those waters couldn’t accomplish that day, my body did to itself. Every night a nightmare would wait for me, waves engulfed my dreams, my days, until they finally swallowed me completely.

I LOVE MYSELF

The night I was a witness to Kendrick Lamar –

He came to Oakland. A town fraught with colonization, displacement, despair while simultaneously remaining wild, alive, free – pushing and resisting. Defiant. Beautiful.

(but they don’t see it that way).

That day was gorgeous, drooping with expectation and glimmers of hope.

We danced and the city floated on its tippy toes. A city weighed down by its long legacy of pepper spray and police brutality. Streets stopped by protestors, its highways littered by black and brown people yelling NO MORE

NO MORE

NO MORE

Killing our kids, killing our babies, killing our cousins, our husbands, our brothers

(but they wouldn’t call them that).

So that night. Kendrick was in town.

Us black and brown girls were there. With our thick ass thighs and our thick ass asses and our round ass bellies with our big ass hair.

I LOVE MYSELF

NAH girl, keep your powders and your fixes/itsaboutgettinghealthybutheresabikinishot shit.

(but they wouldn’t call it that).

I LOVE MYSELF.

There we were – CITIZENS. Fists in the air, foot stomping, delicious hip swaying – bodies squeezed and squooshed together.

I LOVE MYSELF

Kendrick preaching the good news to us, to each other, to ourselves.

I LOVE MYSELF.

(They didn’t think I should).

For so many years, I did not see myself.

The words I swallowed told me I was someone I was not. I held up a mirror and I was nowhere to be found.

I worshipped a god that I thought was mine. But he wasn’t –

The more I became aware of my brown skin

The warmth between my legs

This bridge called my back

– the smaller and angrier this god got. A canyon widened. And I fell through its massive abyss.

Finally free.

So I looked for better mirrors. The bigger ones that were strong enough to reflect me, where I could present my bodyandself – not as sacrifice, but in Glory. A mirror brave enough to reflect my existence –

I finally saw me.

(They never did see me).

I LOVE MYSELF

What a beautiful thing to say – an act of resistance. To love a body that is brown, scarred, tattooed, too big, and too goddamn loud.

I LOVE MYSELF

We streamed out of the Fox Theatre that night. There in Uptown Oakland. We were drunk with hope, adrenaline, whiskey.

Floating on air. And we went on to dance, to drink cheap beer, and celebrate. To celebrate that maybe we’d be alright.

That we were gon be alright.

Free of of it all – of the weight of racismmisogynytransphobiahomophobiabrutality. We would create our own world.  At least, for the night. And just for that night? We did.

I LOVE MYSELF

expectant

I expect a lot from you
Too much.
Maybe.

My blood starts rushing, double speed. Weaving itself through my body, pulsing -reminding me
of just how alive I am and just how much more alive I’ll feel so so soon.

I rush around. Hit the standards first. Funny how the standards change. As a teenager, I’d scan the shelves for a never before read bio of DiMaggio. Maybe a Mantle if I was lucky. But there was always a Berra. Always. Yogi, I
could rely on.

Then later, when those heroes died – faded – disappointed

Religion. The Christian section waiting in earnest- sitting patiently to disperse their timeless wisdom, unequivocal answers. So certain that this section would be it forever. What more could there be? Pulling up a pillow to make it safe, cozy, me and G-d. I’m done, thankyouverymuch.

And then it stopped. It wasn’t sudden, there wasn’t an afternoon where everything changed. But gradually. The bell would ring on that door and the rush didn’t come. I sauntered over, already exhausted.

And then women.  And later LGBT. And then later Chicano/latin@ sections, much of which I realized didn’t exist. And there were no LGBT folks in the Christian section. And there were no latin@s in the LGBT section.

And there was no me anywhere.

First rush.

And then? Walking slowly through the fiction. Walking slowly, waiting, anticipating. Needed so badly for something to call my name, to heal me, to break me, to salve me, to complete me, to call me their own.

My eyes scan, not as anxious in the rush before. Nah, this is sacred. A ritual of longing and belonging. Waiting patiently for that spine to call to me and perhaps even more importantly, for me to respond to it.

And I make this silly transaction. Dumb money for pages that very well might save my life.

And I get home, stamp it.

Make sure it’s nestled in the right section in right alpha order. Perfect.

And I walk to the library and do it all over again.

Questionable Saints

I would not feel safe and whole in the face of an altar that includes Alma White.

I didn’t know who she was until last night. I was introduced to her by Nadia Bolz-Weber in her new book, Accidental Saints. Bolz-Weber’s memoir Pastrix was pivotal for me. I bought her book a few times for friends and constantly referred to her work. Her rawness and authenticity is refreshing. It’s honestly too bad that it is SO refreshing for a Christian to just be genuine and to swear once in awhile to be considered refreshing, but here we are.

ANWAY, back to Alma White. Bolz-Weber’s church celebrates All Saints Day and she came across White upon stumbling on a church White founded in Denver.

So she’s this feminist who started a church in the very earliest 20th century. Bad ass!

And she was a member of the KKK and hated immigrants.

SCREECHING HALT

Why did the conversation continue? Why did Bolz-Weber agree to honoring her on All Saints Day? Because she was a woman who stared a church? Even though that church probably hated people that looked like me and my family? Does her feminism trump the reality of her racism?

Nope.

Maybe I’m being a bad Christian. Or maybe I”m just not into getting reminded of the violence inflicted on people of color.

We want to love sinners, because we are also sinners. But as people of color (and queer people of color)– what to do with those oppressors in the face of our “duty” to forgive?

“Personally, I think knowing the difference between a racist and a saint is kind of important. But when Jesus again and again says things like the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, and the poor are blessed, and the rich are cursed, and that prostitutes make great dinner guests, it makes me wonder if our need for pure black-and-white categories is not true religion but maybe actually a sin.” –Accidental Saints (p.6)

“I explained to Bill that what we celebrate in the saints in not their piety or perfection but the fact that we believe in a G-d who gets redemptive and holy things done in the world through, of all things, human beings, all of whom are flawed.” –Accidental Saints (p.7)

Given a certain kind of theology, I understand this perfectly. It makes sense – aren’t we all sinners? However, when Jesus talked about the first shall be last and the last shall be first – was he talking about oppressive folks whom people of justice would consider “last?” Jesus was on the side of the poor and marginalized, no question. That is the Gospel – good news for the poor and oppressed. Yes, Jesus shook up categories all the time. The results of which shined a light of the divine reality in those who have been kicked and left out of the temple gates. When the rich young ruler walked away, Jesus let him walk away. The liberating news wasn’t for him, because he couldn’t understand it coming from his place of wealth. The status quo was working for him, he didn’t need Jesus messing all that up.

James Cone perfectly wraps up my concern with this, “There is no divine grace in (the Bible) that is bestowed on oppressors at the expense of the suffering of the poor.” – God of the Oppressed (p.62)

I would protest the presence of Alma White in my sacred space. Maybe I’m not being forgiving enough, but I’m not sure I totally care. For me, White’s racism and xenophobia trumps her “feminism.” Her sainthood is not accidental, it’s woefully misguided.

Dear Relevant Magazine, I exist.

I got my hands on Relevant Magazine for the first time when I was in high school. I had just begun my long, difficult, joyful, and so very complicated journey into white evangelicalism. I grew up in a fundamentalist baptist church filled with latino immigrants, much like my own family. We memorized the proper verses to save souls in the traditional and exclusively God-inspired Reina-Valera. G-d was the mean old man who only existed to guilt you into getting up on Sunday mornings or to begrudgingly give you a ticket to get into Heaven. The fluffy white buddy Jesus I found as a teenager was deeply comforting, new, and a relief. Well, for a little while anyway.

At 19, I discovered podcasts. It was the year 2006 and there were probably like ten available. I worked an office job and found solace, laughter, and comfort in the Relevant Podcast. And I’ve listened every week since. It’s been almost a decade. I am definitely no longer an evangelical Christian (or am I? Ah, that’s another post for another day), but I still tune in. Sure, I mostly fast forward through their interviews and many Hillsong performances over the years – I just listen because of the cast. After listening for so long, they became a ritual – friends I downloaded on Fridays, who lived across the country that “I knew,” but didn’t know me. The countless inside jokes, ridiculous segments, and sincerity kept me around.

It wasn’t until the last few years that I realized how incredibly white everything was over at Relevant. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure they’ve only had one woman of color on the cover (Mindy Kaling). I was so used navigating the white terrain of my youth, to ignoring that I didn’t quite belonging, that I got desensitized to it. And then it wasn’t so okay anymore, it wasn’t so okay to be invisible. Recently, Relevant published a list of “10 Books Everyone Should Read by 25” – 10/11 white authors, two women. And of course, the article was written by a white author to go along with their mostly white authors and audience.

I’ve had to come to terms with my own lack of diversity in books and reading. It was mind blowing to realize that most of the authors I was reading were white. Actually, it’s downright shameful. Immersed in years of white Christian culture, I wonder if some racist self-loathing seeped into me. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Probably some of both.

Here’s the thing. I am not shocked that Relevant didn’t have a diverse listing of authors. Nor am I particularly outraged. I’m actually surprisingly hurt. Both at their own omission and ignorance as well as my own. It’s been a few days since the criticism arose, and still not a peep from Relevant with an apology or a revised list. Not even any lip service about “doing better.”

The culture of white supremacy in Christianity leads to indifference to people like me. And having bought into this in the past, made me actually believe that my story and my life were of no consequence either. 

I exist. Women like me exist. We are brown skinned, feminist Christians. Some of us are heterosexual, many of us are queer. And we love Jesus. Not only do we exist, but we stand concretely in our places in the Church – proudly and with no apology (and have been for generations, long before the Church “let us.”)

You’re missing out on a helluva conversation, Relevant. You’re missing out on what G-d is doing in the lives of black and brown women.

The annoying thing is that I still like actually enjoy Relevant. I’m a subscriber and have been for years. Maybe I don’t give up because it’s one of my last ties to the Christianity that was once such a comfort for me.

But it really isn’t so comfortable anymore.

Finally.

 

Much of my life has been controlled by fear. For some people that know me, this may come as a shock. I’m a loud mouthed extrovert! What in the world could I possibly be afraid of?

Well, for starters, this. Starting yet another blog that goes nowhere, that no one reads, and that ultimately won’t matter. Writing something that will make people think I’m not cool, hip, or relevant. And yet, I am constantly confronted with this stupid annoying feeling in my chest that simply tells me to write.

Here’s what I care about: making this world better and finding other folks who want to make it better. I want to be reminded of both the beauty and tragedy that comes with being human. I want to not have anxiety over the fact that this blog is indeed insignificant (in the grand scheme of the universe), as is (ultimately) the life I live. I want to find joy and hope in that idea, without being morbid or nihilist. I want to dare to not be very good at blogging. But mostly, I want to speak. I want to believe that what I say can matter. I want to not use the excuse that I’m not terribly good at always having the same tenses in my sentences or that I tend to use the same words over and over and over again. (See what I did there?)

I want the world to know that I am a Christian-queer-feminist-Latina and that I hold those identities inside me and proudly.  So if you’re interested in that, I think we can have a rockin’ good time. Also, I’m afraid of not knowing how to end posts properly, as evidenced by “a rockin’ good time.”

Maybe it’ll be better next time?

ALSO: I have a blog about books at booksandaventures.com – check it out!