God bless the life of Gina Ruocco—sister, mother, daughter & grandmother.
God bless the husband of 60 years, and the life and the family, both nuclear and extended that lived in the home. God bless the love between that extended so wide.
God bless the twin brother and sister who shared in so many memories, gave and received so much love, and demonstrated mutual loyalty & support & care & respect despite the very different paths they took. God bless the sister who remains, the sister who mothers a city—who learned mothering, at least in part, from her.
God bless the brother in law who went before her and gave her so much agita and loved her deeply.
God bless the friend turned sister-in-law who died too young and asked her to mother her child. I would not know her as grandma if she didn’t.
God bless the families that came from her four children — those children of 179 West Water Street, Little Italy, who threw tomatoes, stole candy, randsacked a cop car’s megaphone, and always behaved in class when the nuns were present. Who grew up to be loving and loved by their families and communities.
God bless the home built after the flood that never knew a day without her, because she oversaw its construction by her husband.
God bless the overgrown arborvitae trees that she loved and stared at from the outdoor porch. The outdoor rugs, the clothes line and the giant fountain.
God bless the grandchildren, who made her proud and made her laugh, and gave her such joy.
God bless the great grand children who got their cheeks pinched and may never fully know the glory of her cooking and her sassing and her giant smile.
God bless the grandchild who lived with her, took care of her, asked her questions to counteract her worry, and who, even in the third decade of his life, knew to be home at curfew. And knew not to touch the decor.
God bless every person who ever ate her cooking. And any who tried to get her to teach them how to replicate her recipes—a pinch there, a cup (not a measuring cup!) here, a handful of this.
God bless her caregivers. And the pizzeria staff who reached and drove and retrieved and received such endearing nicknames.
God bless HomeGoods—maybe.
God bless the life of the woman I was named after who often reminded me that even after she passed, “there will always be a Gina around.” God bless the fact that DNA isn’t the only way to be family.
God bless Gina Cecelia — known affectionately by her siblings as Jean, by her children as Mom, and by the generations that followed as Meema.
From my IG video you can find here.
I have a confession to make. I’ve acted violently against myself in showing up on social media. I found myself comparing my life, my writing, my house, my décor, my makeup, my theology with a lot of others on here, especially on Instagram.
What I often found was jealousy not joy.
Competition not connection.
I was getting so overwhelmed with life, work, and being an author, that I decided it wasn’t good for my mental health. So I cut down my Instagram following and my followers not long after my second book came out.
I’ve wrestled with continuing to show up there, a lot. But I’ve done quite a bit of work to learn how to belong to myself (I’m still learning), and how to be confident in what I offer and what I hope for from others. So I’m going to try to show up a bit differently moving forward. Videos aren’t something I’ve done a lot, and part of that was due to low self love. But that’s an area I’ve been working hard at too. I like the person I see in the mirror, not just my mind, but my body too. There’s room to grow but I’m on a trajectory I’m proud of.
Moving forward with social media videos, I’m going to read what I write. I don’t have time to memorize, and I’m not the best at going off the cuff. I’m OK with that. I work a full time job, and I have two kids, a dog, and cat, a bunch of plants, and I’m a spouse. I think that success from a prosperity mindset says I need to memorize and make this perfect, but I don’t think it’s fair to make this more than I should to myself, my kids, or my spouse. And I want to spend time with them. In fact, I’ve come to believe it’s violence against myself and my dearest ones to place so much pressure on what I produce because the tyranny of production is never satisfied.
I’m going to show up sometimes with makeup and my hair done, but most of the time not. Because that’s real life.
I’m going to share my thoughts and be as fully human as I can be. I just got home from giving a talk about Violence and Victory (based on my Violence & Victory article at Red Letter Christians) – my premise is that if we seek victory rather than justice we will never actually find shalom. Victory is individualized. Victory presupposes a winner and a loser. This is what studying God’s abundance has shown me. I’ll get more into it in the coming videos, but for now, I just want to confess that as a writer and speaker, I often find myself seeking victory. It’s easier than seeking justice. It’s what a lot of people are doing because we’re told it’s the only way. Victory is a bigger platform, a larger following, another book contract, etc. But when we seek the best for ourselves above all else, we lose ourselves along the way. We have to reject this if we really believe in collective abundance, in the flourishing of all. What does victory look like for you in your arena of life? In what ways does that provoke you to look at others around you as competition rather than as neighbors?
I’m going to work towards being nonviolent to myself even on social media. I’ve long turned off notifications and been mindful of my time on the socials, but there’s more that can be done. And I need to find a way to practice abundance even here. I hope you can find ways to practice it in whatever spaces you are a part of too.
If you’re feeling it, comment below and name one way you can reject the violence of social media?
This guest post is written by Eliza Stewart. Eliza (she/her) is a young South African with a USA passport taking a year between high school and the rest of her life to do some travelling, learning, and listening.
What does it mean to travel to a place, not to consume it, but just to be there? I don’t want to go somewhere because I feel entitled to because my mom was born within the borders of the “USA” and I have access to it legally because of my passport. I want to think about the places I’m going beyond what they can do for me and my gap year. I will grow more from my gap year if it is not completely focused on me, which might seem ironic to those of us who’ve been taught gap years are meant for us to find ourselves.
I just finished reading Harsha Walia’s book Border & Rule, a book which investigates the function of borders - politically, socially, culturally and economically. And as a South African currently traveling in the USA so much around me has me thinking about borders. Thinking about how easily I move through borders. Thinking about why I am, because of my identity as a white person and a USA citizen, permitted to move so easily through borders. Thinking about the whole system. As a child you don’t really think about countries and borders and the whole system as anything but natural, but Walia and others have shown me a different way.
Walia explains that the function of borders is to restrict the movement of people, while the movement of capital and goods is ensured. People are declared illegal, while the surplus value they produce never is. Humans and land are turned into commodities (made for exchange). The conversion of land into property is directly related to the conversion of people into property. Movement across borders, legal or illegal, is used in service of capitalists to accumulate capital. The border does not work against globalised capital, it works in service of it. Free capital requires bordered and immobilised labour. She says:
Borders do not protect labor; the border is a bundle of relations and mode of governance acting as a spatial fix for capital to segment labor... Simply put, borders manufacture divisions within the international working class. Borders are exploited by the class-conscious ruling class through outsourcing and insourcing to weaken collective bargaining rights and working-class resistance to transnational capital and its austerity measures.
One of my favourite YouTubers, Saint Andrew, quotes in his Abolish Borders video “The border is not just a wall. It’s not just a line on a map. It’s not any particular physical location. It’s a power structure, a system of control. The border is everywhere that people live in fear of deportation, everywhere migrants are denied the rights accorded citizens, everywhere human beings are segregated into included and excluded. The border does not divide one world from another. There is only one world, and the border is tearing it apart… In our ‘free’ and ‘post-colonial’ world what was once the norm is now criminalized...There is nothing necessary or inevitable about borders.”
One example where this is happening is in Hawai’i. Indigenous Hawai’ians have been saying that they don’t want tourists on their land, especially right now. Hawai’ians are being asked to reduce their water usage due to intense water shortages while tourists are allowed to move freely over the land consuming and consuming. Hawai’i is seen as nothing but a pretty backdrop, and the people props, for vacations. It is the most basic level of respect to not travel to Hawaii right now, yet thousands of tourists are. I don’t want to be like them or think like them that I am entitled to go somewhere just because the border allows me to. (This is an amazing video from Haunani-Kay Trask that shows her response to the US American occupation of Hawai’i and her identity as a Hawai’ian).
When I am old, I will tell you I remember learning about freedom beyond anthems and passports. And how we never went back once we knew the kind of love bound only by shorelines, prairie skies, and forest floors.”
How do I travel through the world as one member of the tiniest group that has open access to the world’s borders? How do I travel not just being aware of the power I have because of how I am racialised, but as someone humbly coming into spaces as a guest? How do I interact with the world with all of these thoughts of borders, and entitlement, and division coming together? I don’t want to be an entitled traveler. I don’t want my gap year to be predatory. I don’t want to gain my own feelings of independence and growth through the harm of others. I don’t want people and places to just serve as props for my journey. I just don’t really know how to do this well.
“In this new space one can imagine safety without walls, can iterate difference that is prized but unprivileged, and can conceive of a third, if you will pardon the expression, world ‘already made for me, both snug and wide open, with a doorway never needing to be closed.’ Home.”
Unbelonging uncovers the stepping stones that are invisible in belonging. Every time we are excommunicated, pushed away, pushed out, or told we don’t fit in. Every time we feel angst over the social boundaries we’re told we must abide by, we have begun the journey to see these stepping stones that give us a new perspective of Christ. For Christ, belonging is never transactional. Belonging has always been unconditional.
And this is the most radical, controversial, mind-blowing aspect of Christianity —
the abundance of God in belonging.
There are no prerequisites to begin the journey or even along the way. There is abundance of belonging for every step, every misstep, every part of the journey. Scarcity and prosperity have no room in Christ’s kingdom, because those identifiers are codependent on accolades, possessions, and checklists. And those identifiers dichotomize the whole of the human race: you either have it and are prosperous or you don’t. God’s abundance redefines what identity even is, and every unbelonging unveils more and more of this truth. But it requires a deep letting go of the things we thought we did for ourselves. We cannot hold onto our trophies, our accomplishments, our belief systems, or our good deeds. Authentic, abundant belonging has no relation to those measurements. This is absolute freedom. And, absolute sadness simultaneously to people whose identity is so wrapped up in accomplishment that the Good News of this abundance is deeply difficult news to their egos. It is in the unbelonging, we learn to truly belong to Christ, who is always bent toward us. The question is, will we lay down our bent toward prosperity so that we can accept this true belonging?
For workers struggling to find pay, struggling to find consistent work, struggling to move beyond survival, extra stressed by their circumstances, reveal your presence to them so they know they don’t walk alone.
Be their Jehovah Shammah.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For those out of work, struggling to find it, feeling underwater as their dignity and identity are so closely connected to the reality of having it, be their Jehovah Bore, Elohim, and remind them that their worth comes from the dignity You’ve already given.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For workers being exploited — sexually, economically, racially, because of immigrant status or otherwise, Lord protect them. Hedge their intrinsic value, their families, their bodies and minds. Be their Jehovah Sabaoth.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For children, spouses, and friends, siblings, and parents who depend on these workers, Lord, provide for these families. Be their Jehovah Jireh. Change laws & oppressive policies, infuse empathy in those who have power over these. Be Jehovah Nissi, make yourself known to the workers, their families, their employers and politicians.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the dignity innate in every human being
For the everlasting love you so freely give,
Lord, let these workers experience and know and feel--
You are near and You are love; You care, and You lead to green pastures. Be their Jehovah Rohi.
Lord, hear our prayer.
And for those who can advocate on their behalf, work toward their communal good, open up opportunities for flourishing, connect resources and networks — equip them for this good work. Energize them with your ever-flowing love, forgive them of any haughty thoughts, and let them learn as much as they teach, receive as much as they give, challenge as much as they encourage.
Be our Jehovah Adonai.
Lord, hear our prayer.
If you struggle during this season to stay focused on Christ and his birth because of all of the distractions of commercialism starting with Black Friday and leading right up to December 25, Covid logistics for get-togethers, the perfect presents for every so-and-so, you are not alone. I used to get so frustrated during this season because it seems to not be about Christ at all (I wrote a blog post in my early 20s called why I hate Christmas.) But then I learned about Advent — and the church calendar in general — and it's given me a way to stay focused on Christ.
I've created a Nouns & Verbs Advent 2020 calendar as a mini morning devotional for 25 days leading up to the day we celebrate Christ's birth. Little prompts to go with each day. I'll be sending it out December 1 in my monthly newsletter, so sign up by November 30 on my homepage: genathomas.com
A prayer for the [Christian] political other--
Lord bless the Christian who votes differently than me. Open their—I mean our—eyes to see the bigger picture.
Teach me not to dehumanize
Teach me not to judge their humanity while opining on their choices.
Lord bless the one who votes differently than me, and help me to mean this prayer. Yes, help me to mean this prayer.
May I see Your Imago Dei in him, and may he see it in me. But even if he doesn't, Lord bless the one who votes differently than me.
Let both of us use our votes for your goodness, for communal flourishing, and let our lives speak the sermons that move mountains.
Give both of us wisdom to draw boundaries, but not build walls. Yes, Lord bless the Christian who votes differently than me, and bless me with this desperately needed grace.
Don’t wait until you have thousands of followers, a large platform, publishers that automatically say yes before you do these things. DO THEM NOW. If we wait till we are famous, we are adding to the injustices of the publishing world. Let’s start now in changing our culture. If we don’t learn to strive for everyone’s flourishing prior to our own “success” it will be so much harder when we get to wherever we are trying to go. So if you only have 20 followers, you’ve come at the right moment. And as you continue on this journey invite others to do the same.
I’m not perfect in any of these things. I’ve messed up, I’ve forgotten. I’ve not been intentional. But these are the things I’m striving to do, and send me an email if you think I can do better with specific steps for me to follow. If you have more ideas on how to do so, and you don’t mind me publishing your name, please share in the comments or email me. I will add them!
History is a wise ancestor who leads us, if we let her.
District Judge Gee postponed the order to release migrant children held in detention facilities by ten days with a release date of July 27. DHS, this is your opportunity to intentionally keep families together. To make wrongs right. To carve a new path forward.
From 1619 until 1865 we forcibly separated families in slavery. Children were legally allowed to be sold or traded without the permission of their parents. This was America.
From 1860 until 1973 we forcibly separated Native American children from their families through boarding schools. Agents were paid a bounty for “rounding up kids to ship to the government boarding schools. Later… parents had to sign papers to let their children go ‘legally.’ Parents who refused could go to jail.” Binary choice made way for forced assimilation. This was America.
In the 1930s during “Mexican Repatriation” children were left behind while parents were detained and deported. This was America.
A decade later, 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in internment camps. In some cases, family members were separated and put into different camps. It was an executive order that legalized this version of America.
In 2018, over 2,700 children were forcibly separated by you under the zero-tolerance policy. District Court Judge Sabraw issued an injunction against the separations in June 2018. International agencies called you out on human rights violations. And the American people were outraged. The America we wanted was not the one we saw. Two years ago, this was America.
In each case, the dehumanization of human beings led to forced separation of families in the name of national security and capital gain.
So I ask you, DHS, because you hold the power. Will you set America on a better path than her past has projected for her? Fulfill Judge Gee’s order by allowing families to leave detention centers together.
Five-year-old Julia, my former foster daughter was separated first in Mexico from her biological mother. Smugglers held her mother hostage and forced her into prostitution. Julia was separated from her stepdad because of zero-tolerance. The power you wielded led to life-long trauma for their family. You have security forces in positions where social workers should be. Securing our safety as a nation involves upholding human rights, protecting our holistic wellbeing, and allowing those who seek safety to be first and foremost treated as human beings “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
When, by July 27, you release these children to sponsorship families through the Office of Refugee Resettlement — which Julia went through — what then? Over half of low-income families in America are economically struggling in the U.S. right now due to COVID-19, and sponsorship families do not get a stipend like foster families do. Imagine taking a child into your home. What stresses would your family go through? Release families together. Let this be our America.
Julia ended up in foster care because she was released to a home that was already struggling financially.
As a foster parent who parented two American girls prior to Julia, family separation is achingly difficult, even when biological parents have abused or neglected their children. Foster care exists to reunite families as soon as possible with safety precautions around the children: good parenting standards in a safe and appropriate home.
Why aren’t immigrant families afforded the same rights? Unless the detained immigrant parents are abusive, children should be released with their parents. Beyond the unnecessary trauma we are inflicting on these families, we know that alternatives to detention cost far less and community-based programming is far more humane than detention.
If we separate families in the name of national protection at the cost of our souls, we are still the America we’ve always been. If we separate families for economic gain, how are we any different than the smugglers who do the same?
Every time we separate families, we stunt our moral growth continuing our already-too-long legacy of dehumanization. We subject so many to the unnecessary but all-too-familiar trauma of family separation for the sake of an America we don’t want.
Let us be an America known for reuniting families, not one that finds more subtle ways to tear them apart.
The first time I met “Daniel” was at his 8th birthday party. The clinic had a birthday party for him and bought him a special bike. He had never ridden a bike before, he was born with a disability. When the doctors put Daniel in his mother’s arms, they told her that the only chance he had to have another birthday was to leave their home for specialized care that his country could not offer him. What would you do for your child?
Nearly 35 million U.S. children have experienced one or more types of trauma. One of the most common causes of childhood trauma is separation from a parent or caregiver. Children as young as 5 months old can remember traumatic events. This can lead to social, emotional, and academic difficulties. Why would we as a nation ever want to contribute to that?
Daniel continues to have surgeries, therapy, and complications. He stopped playing at recess because he was afraid he would fall. Imagine being 8 and knowing how much a CT scan costs at the Emergency Department. Last year, Daniel started having seizures. Would you walk across the world if it meant you could keep your child safe? Would you accept the help of friends to find someone to perform brain surgery on your baby? I hope so.
Keep families together. Keep children remembering happy birthdays wherever they are. Families will continue to walk across nations to find a better life for their children, we are only responsible for how we treat them while they are in our care.
Amy Norbury, MSN,DNP
Nurse Practitioner from North Carolina