Alaska, home, kenkulluci, saying goodbye, Toksook Bay, Uncategorized, yupik


There is so much beauty here in this little Yupik village-the bay, the water, the mountains and the snow; the fish, the northern lights, the ravens and seagulls and geese.
We had only lived in Alaska a short time before there was the first funeral. A child younger than my own who had died in a house fire. A few weeks later, an elder. Followed several weeks later by another child and a another elder and this week, another elder.
This is a small village. That is a lot of grief.
But here, there is even beauty in a sunset.
For several days after the death of a community member, the village stills. basketballs stop bouncing and the community center is quiet. When the funeral comes, everyone will come to say their goodbyes. When the funeral is over, there will be a feast. The family will pass out gifts to those who attend.
Let that sink in. the family will send guests away with gifts.
I find myself deep in heartfelt thought.
I am writing as an outsider. A guest here, nothing more and nothing less. I watch these things, feel these things with an open heart, gratitude and wonder.
Absolutely everything here seems by design a way to stay connected and in a spirit of caring for one another. Everything always centered on loving back and forth, around and around in a circle of connectedness. It is admirable, it is amazing. It is sacred, but empowering and humbling.
Today, please remember, you too have something to give.
Kenkulluci-love one another.

Alaska, Christmas, Church, home, Sunday, Texas, Uncategorized

When “Merry Christmas” Takes the Christ out of Christmas

I can say Merry Christmas today. I have finally come to that place after many years of healing outside of the church.
But not everyone has reached that place. The thing is, the church has royally f’d over some people and it takes a long time to heal from torture and captivity. Which is what the church has been doing for some time. Holding captives. Claiming authority Christ never gave them to shame victims into silence. His children have been forced to carry the burden of sins never committed, to be outcasts and forbidden the entire grace of God and a holy seat at His table. Lives have been broken in the church and families have been sacrificed at the collection plate. Let that sink into your heart this season for a minute. Not everyone has warm fuzzy feelings about church and for too long, the church has claimed Christ as their own, withholding true Christ from too many.
How ’bout in the spirit of Christ, let’s offer some salve to open wounds this season. Let’s walk and talk and shop in grace. Let’s meet her at the well and take the offered water. Let’s accept that the example of Christ like life was in fact, a non-believer. Let’s embrace, rather than insult and injure. You know, put some Christ into. Kindness, patience, understanding, all that love stuff, and with Christ’s loving healing heart, say, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanza, or return whatever greeting of Christ like love they offer you.
If someone we meet can’t say Merry Christmas, if it hurts or angers them, it’s because somewhere along the way, someone used Christ’s name to batter them, to oppress them, or to violate them in some way. Whatever the reason, that’s between them and God. Our only instruction is to love. WE can be as Christ this season. So Christian up and return that, “Happy Holidays!” That’s the Christ of Christmas.
By the way,
Alussistuaqegcikici, ya’ll!

home, McGregor, saying goodbye, teaching, Texas, Uncategorized

To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before (and all their students, too)

There’s a team of Fifth grade teachers in McGregor. At the start of the school year, they were strangers. Today, I said goodbye to friends.
Friends who have opened their hearts in prayer, who have shared their table, who have confided in me, and allowed me to confide in them. These friends have celebrated with me, worried with me, and lifted my spirits.
A year ago when we left Big D for little Oglesby, Jamie asked, “So why did you move HERE?” There were all kinds of answers. From ‘a teaching job’ to ‘doing what’s best for our children’ and even a bit of ‘for the starry nights.’
If Jaimie asked me the same question today, my answer would be quite different.
I came for Jamie, for Mandy, and Debbie and Moriah. I came for Jill and Heather and Nikki. I came to McGregor for Jenna, and Yatziri and Pattrick and Gerardo and Dixie and 90 other fifth graders. While we leave McGregor with less in our pockets and definitely less stuff altogether, I am infinitely richer and my heart overflowing.
See Ya’ll later, Bulldogs. Black and Gold forever.

*this is posted in a wee bit late. Life in Alaska has a way of moving slower but at a quick pace.

Alaska, Church, home, Sunday, Texas, Uncategorized

If You Missed a Sunday

Ya’ll, I need a Sunday.
Our little UU church in Waco, like so many churches today, offers archived sermons on-line, for “if you missed a Sunday.”
Well, ya’ll I miss “a Sunday.”
Since moving to Alaska, We MISS many of our Sundays. Sundays while we lived in Texas were never ever a day a rest. In fact, as youth leaders, Sunday was our most whirlwind day of the week. But those Sundays helped prepare us for this Alaskan adventure. Sundays at our Methodist church, among the youth group, we learned that all things are possible and to be unafraid. From our UU church, we learned that it is okay to be afraid, and that sometimes, it isn’t possible, but we persist anyway.  We carry them both in our hearts.
We carry the brave love of the FUMC who is filled to the absolute brim with unrelenting radical Christ like love for every soul in Oglesby. I don’t even know that Oglesby itself realizes what a jewel from heaven they have right there on College Street. These are doors Christ holds open to all and nothing but unconditional love flows from them.
We burn with the light of the chalice from WUU. Here, humanity is recognized, both our own and those we humans often see as ‘others’. In this place, Sunday means a place to find peace, salve for wounds from the journey, and renewal and connection with those understand, or seek to understand, what it is to live in a way where, in service are we truly in prayer.  Oh, what Holy water!
So okay, we miss our Sundays. But it is because of the Sundays we didn’t miss that we are able to find moments of Sunday here.

Alaska, celebrate, home, mom, Toksook Bay, Uncategorized

Baby, it’s cold outside

There was snow this morning when I opened the door. Ice shimmered on the porch steps leading to the path to the school. Soft fluffy flurries swirled and blew so thick that I couldn’t keep my eyes open against the flakes. But I couldn’t stand to look away either. What breath taking magic!
I promised Eastyn that when snow came, I would “look at all all all of it” with him. He’s been watching and waiting for snow for weeks. He giggled when we opened the door. His eyes looked up at me and his whole face was lit with the excitement only a five year old can have. At 8:45, the sun hadn’t joined us for the day making the moment all the more magical. Eastyn’s eyes looked at mine. His little feet all snug and warm in his boots did a little dance and he turned in the snowfall, laughing.
But school starts at 8:45 and we were already running late, so our celebration was short. I walked with Eastyn down the steps and pulled his hood up and kissed him good bye. He ran into the school building, stopping here and there to look up at the sky. He was still laughing at the door.
Sometimes it’s snow that makes a moment magic. Sometimes it’s the one we share it with. Sometimes it’s unexpected or long awaited. Or both. Whatever it is, whatever makes a moment like that leave us warm the whole day through, I am grateful for it.
Here’s to two minute celebrations. May you find them as they find you.

Alaska, dance, home, Toksook Bay, Uncategorized, yupik

And they danced

yupik danceSitting in the gym one night this past week, one of the basketball players lifted a drum from the wall and started playing it. He shared with me that he knew how to sing, dance and drum. He told me had learned all this when he was five. “Tonight,” he said, “we are practicing at the multi. You can come.”
I tugged at Chad’s sweater sleeve. “Tonight we should go watch them dance.” He said he didn’t know if we could do that. The basketball player said, “You’re invited.”
So at nine o’clock, in the light of Alaskan night, we bundled up and walked to the multi. We were greeted by several people and found our seats off to the side.
A bit later, drums and singing began and dancers made their way to the floor.
And they were the Yup’ik. They were absolutely everything we have seen so far. They were the tundra grass that waves with wind. They were the waves that move gently in the bay, the movement of fish below the water and the wings of seabirds that glide overhead. They were the streams that connect all the ponds of water across the tundra. They were energy and they were time. They danced with quiet grace and they dance with fervor. They danced with reverence and they danced with playful humor. I’m not kidding. There was one particular dance that had me laughing the whole time from start to end!
We stayed for some time and when we left, our hearts were full. My favorites were when the three boys sang together their voices in unison but taking turns to rise or fall. Or maybe when one of the small children stood in the line and raised his arms to sway. Or maybe the laughing way one of the younger boys took on every single dance with his entire soul. Walking home felt very much like leaving church. Not the hell and damnation kind of church, the God is Love kind. The kind where you are refreshed and want for more. Every single person was real. And they danced.

*photo is not mine.  You can find out more about Yup’ik dancers at Toksook Bay here:

Alaska, home, moving, Uncategorized

You Are Here

So we boarded an airplane before the sun rose and left Texas headed for Alaska.
There’s not much to say about that Time In Between. It was a series of hurry up and wait.
We had been told, “expect delays”. And so we did. We expected delays of an hour here or there. We did not expect to wait a day here and there. It turns out that in Alaska, especially way out in the villages, one always adds, “weather permitting” to every date and time. And so we hurried to the airport. And then we waited. And waited and waited and waited. About a thousand dollars later, we boarded for our final flight. Copernicus whined the entire way. Everett worried for his python. My eyes stayed glued to the windows.
We watched the ground below peppered with ponds and lakes and streams that run between. Dots below us, but filled with life. Birds and tiny houses here and there. We saw the ocean come into view. Tides and waves appeared as thin white lines. Everything below appeared minuscule, shrunken by distance. It’s not something that makes you feel larger than life. It reminds you of how big it all is, and how tiny we truly are. I wondered if the pilot still took in this view in as much awe as I, with as much wonder and joy as five-year-old Eastyn. I hope so. I’d hate to have that amazement diluted with each flight. I wonder what everyday magnificence I myself have become blind to by daily exposure.
When we landed, the wind was furious. The air was cold and we shivered in what we were comfortable in an hour before. We piled ourselves, our dogs, our snake, and our luggage into one LKSD truck and headed for our new spot on the map.
We are here.
Let this be Home.

*photo is not mine. from the blog “GypsyNester”