This is justice


I’ve been thinking about the title of this blog and pondering – “What is justice?”

The first dictionary definition speaks of “righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness”. This seems to capture what I think of when I hear the word ‘justice’. It’s a sense that things are as they should be. It’s fitting that I should be hung up on this word, as my natural way of seeing things is to be preoccupied with how things should be as opposed to how things are. Without an awareness that things can and should be different, nothing will ever change in the world.

Justice isn’t just a word for crusaders or activists, though. What about the world inside you? The complex system of thoughts, feelings, and judgments that take place in your own head? Is it a just world? Do you judge yourself harshly . . . do you judge yourself at all? Do you extend the same compassion to yourself that you want to extend to others? Do your thoughts and opinions come from an informed place? What is it like inside you?

My inner world is random and chaotic. It is the playground of a child and the library of a scholar. It is warm, sunny days and dark, stormy nights. My inner critic can be a real bitch . . . she scares me sometimes. So many voices . . . and sometimes all alone. Is it safe in here? Are the thoughts and judgments of my mind justified? Is this a just world? If I am afraid in here, no wonder I am afraid out there . . .

Justice starts with power, or rather empowerment. I will never be more empowered in the outside world than I am inside my own head. I will never be able to treat others with equity, compassion, and love if I am not practicing these arts in my inner world. Who you are on the inside is who you are . . . and she will always find her way out. There is an inner narrative, a story that is true about you. It doesn’t always line up with the story we tell ourselves or others. Ego will always strive with reality . . . this is the source of our powerlessness and fear.

Find a quiet place . . . sit in stillness, silence, and solitude. Extend an invitation to the real you . . . let her express her fears, her flaws . . . let her be vulnerable. Love her as she is, because transformation into what can and should be always begins by accepting the reality of what is. How can you accept the flaws of others if you cannot acknowledge and accept your own flaws? You will never love others any more than you love yourself – it is simply not possible. If you think I’m wrong, look closely at what you’re calling ‘love’. Are you trying to convince others that you love them by your actions? That’s not love . . . you’re trying to control the narrative about yourself . . . that’s manipulation. You can’t love people you need to control.

Do you try to control yourself? I don’t mean self-control in the good sense; I’m talking about issues like perfectionism and fear. Do you impose impossible standards on yourself? Do you always feel like you don’t quite measure up? All my life I’ve gone through period when I felt I needed to radically change who I was . . . I remember doing this as a little girl. I was bad, wrong, etc., and I decided to be better, nicer, sweeter, whatever. The thing about these self-improvement campaigns is that they never last. They can’t bring about lasting change, because they don’t deal with the real problem. The first problem is ‘who told you you were not okay already?’ The second problem is you failed to go to the one person who can tell you what’s really going on inside you – the real you, she who is disconnected from the outside world, she who lives inside your body, inside your soul.

So sit down with her and create a self place where she can really be herself, express her fears and failures, weep and mourn, grieve losses and regrets. Let her weep until she is still and at peace in your arms. Let her tell you what she needs from you, and then give it to her. She doesn’t need your judgments, your harshness, your know-it-all attitude. She doesn’t need you to fix her – she needs you to empower her with unconditional love and acceptance. She needs you like a child needs her mother. Be your own best friend, your very own soulmate. Love yourself, love every beautiful scar, every crack where the sun pours in . . . work in the garden of your soul together, get your hands dirty in the rich, brown soil. Create a narrative that will bring life to the outside world when it comes forth, because life lives within you.

This is justice.


How the Congolese lost their Cultural Heritage and Business to Chinese Textile Industry


I found Rosebell’s blog recently, and having been to Togo, Ghana, and Uganda, I am very interested in the perspectives of real African people. Here she gives us “a glimpse into the impact of globalization”.

Rosebell's Blog

I read this article and realised the loss is not unique to the Congolese. Everywhere in Africa even as governments  fight second hand clothes, we are still far away from seeing policies that facilitate local industries to be competitive. From the farm to the industries, heavy reliance on imports while exporting less finished goods has many countries in debt.

While i do not have answers, this good feature by Quartz documents how lives have been changed in Lubumbashi. A combination of insecurity and instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the mushrooming cheap Chinese cloth has left devastating impact on families and communities that once held up the Congo glory of textile production.

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Most of the time I feel like a pretender in this world . . . like playing a game without knowing the rules. I ride the highs and lows of feeling like I’m winning then feeling like I’m not welcome on the team . . . like a never-ending dodge ball game and I’m the last  one, reluctantly chosen, and all for the privilege of getting slammed in the face and knocked out as the game begins.

It would be nice to just be . . . not be good or be successful . . . be more . . . just be. Would that be okay? . . . if I was just me . . . ?

Is that enough?

Voices and Dreams

Voices and Dreams

Sanyu-thru the windowI was just re-reading some of my old blog posts, and I realized that I had never written about the documentary we made. Back in 2012, I wrote about the beginnings of that journey, but I didn’t write much at all after that. Well, here’s what happened . . .

When I acknowledged the voice that said “I want to make documentary films,” a friend encouraged me to go for it. He not only encouraged me, he said he would help me make this happen. This was the first time in my life I can recall that someone actually wanted to help me with a plan that came from me. I was in a habit of helping other people with their plans. I had a knack for getting into friendships in which I eventually felt used, like I was not important in the relationship. I was always the moon caught in the strong orbit of a larger planet. So this was new to me . . . honestly, I was completely blown away.

So, if I’m going to make a documentary I need to get some skills, right? I took a break from community college and enrolled in two film classes somewhere else. Those two classes were an absolute blast. I went to a camera store and began to learn about cameras and equipment. At this point I’m thinking that I’ll be doing this all by myself . . . I’m not sure why I thought that, but I soon realized that I didn’t need to do it alone. Others would come along and join me on this journey . . . blown away again. A young friend signed on as cameraman, and I’m so glad he did! We had a couple of meetings, and I laid out my vision for the film. We created a t-shirt design for fundraising, and I choose music for the film after he suggested a local band.

We took a team of four people to Kampala, Uganda, in late October, early November of 2014. We filmed in the slums, in a school, in the home of a missionary family, and in the homes of the parents of schoolchildren. It was a profound experience. At one point I began to feel a little resentful. I was feeling a bit pushed out of the process as the cameraman and his assistant went about gathering shots. I was the director, wasn’t I? But as I prayed and pondered, I felt strongly that I should be at peace and let him run with it. I had the sense that this experience was important for my young friend, and that it would be all right. So I stepped back and let him run, and I’m so glad I did. When I saw the film at our premier, I said to myself, “He did it . . . my vision is up there on that screen. I let him go, and he did it perfectly.” Tears of joy and a lesson learned.

The film is called “A Vision of Destiny”. It is the story of a young American girl who went on holiday to Kampala with $200 and a backpack. It’s about how the people of Uganda captured her heart and how she built a life and a family there. Her vision is to build a world-class international school where future generations of Ugandans will be given the tools they will need to change their world. My hope is that this film will help to raise funds for this school.

Sometimes I still can’t believe it all really happened.

With the help of others, I found my voice.

Sanyu-J and camera and kids

See more pictures of our adventure and watch the trailer for “A Vision of Destiny” on my Pinterest board called The Sanyu Project


January Musings


It’s January 13th, and I still haven’t come up with any New Year’s Resolutions. As these very busy days of January have come and gone, I feel stirrings about things that I think will grow into goals. Perhaps some themes will emerge from the script for this semester. It’s funny . . . I’ve been working at a university for a year and a half now, and my life has become about ‘semesters’. That’s how I do my life now, and I think it’s a good thing. A semester is more manageable than a year. One could also do ‘seasons’.

This spring semester of 2018 has several scripted elements. I work full-time; that’s how my days are spent from 8 to 5, and a bit more at times. And within those hours are tasks and people – opportunities for meaningful contribution . . . opportunities to love, to encourage, and show kindness. This person that I am working on, my ‘soul-work’ will find expression here. Will it be good? Will it flow? Will it be effective? Satisfying? I guess that’s up to me. The trick is to remember that tasks are never just tasks, and people are always more than they appear to be in any given moment.

I made the choice to be a part-time student this semester, rather than a full-time student like last fall. I need more balance to the elements of my life. I’m taking two classes, and my hope is that I can be the kind of student I want to be and thoroughly enjoy both of them. I love learning, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to work toward a degree at this point in my life.

Over the holiday break I jumped back into cooking. That’s something that I was excited about when I first moved here, but it was the first casualty of my insanely busy fall semester. I made my famous shortbread cookies for the first time in many years, and they were wonderful. Preparing delicious, nourishing meals two or three times a week for my family is a big part of the ‘work’ I want to do. My hope is to extend this to friends and neighbors. I am convinced that the context of a shared meal can be a catalyst for connection and healing.

I’m still learning about the practice of contemplative prayer and meditation. And we are still visiting churches, looking for a community. I am a bit nervous, but committed nonetheless. Mostly, I’m focusing on the person I am bringing to the table, rather than what sort of people they are. Maybe they’re nervous, too.

One of my goals is to reach out more to friends and family. Since I gave up Facebook (that’s another post!), I don’t see all the happenings, pictures, etc. In some ways, I’ve struggled to connect with some of my children since they became adults . . . they don’t really need a ‘mother’ anymore, do they? All of the ways I took care of them when they were small have fallen by the wayside. I have nothing left to offer but a smile, a hug, and a listening ear. I have faded into the background of their lives, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m considering old-fashioned letter-writing. I think I’m going to buy some stationary and start writing letters.

These are the ‘bones’ of my life – work, school, cooking, community, connecting with friends and family, and contemplative prayer. If I can think of ‘c’ words for ‘work’ and ‘school’, this will get good!

My hope for you is that 2018 is taking shape, and that you are happy. You don’t have to know everything right now . . . just head toward what your heart is yearning for and trust that you’ll be led along the way. I hope that by the end of 2018 we are more convinced than ever that we are loved more passionately and completely than we could ever have imagined, and that we are more free to express love and to live in our own uniqueness than we ever dreamed. May it be so.

Owning Your Story


“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” This quote is attributed to Ernest Hemingway. I think that’s good advice whether you’re a writer or not. Keeping a journal is a habit I’ve never been good at. I tend to write when things are good, not when things are bad. In years past, I’ve had journals filled with juicy nuggets like, “Cleaned the whole house today – whew!” Years ago, I decided that I didn’t want anyone to ever read those notebooks full of mostly drivel, so I threw them all away.

Ann Lamott has a great quote, too – “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Could writing be a way of owning your story? Could it help you work through the difficult emotions and thoughts about the past?

I want to live free – free on the inside. Am I doomed to be a prisoner of the past? Are there parts of me that are still hiding? Am I protecting people who “should have behaved better”? Is that my responsibility?

Writing can be therapeutic. It isn’t about revenge. It isn’t about getting back at the people who have hurt you. That isn’t owning your story – you’re still making it about them. Write what happened . . . your perception of what happened. Write how you felt. Write what you thought. Write the journey of your inner life afterward, tracing the consequences of what happened to you. Own your story and let everyone else involved own theirs. You’re not going to change their minds about what happened or how it affected you. But that’s not why you write.

I can fill journals with drivel if I want to, but if I want to heal myself and live free I need to own the story of my life from the inside, including the difficult and painful parts. I need to “write clear and hard about what hurts”.

2018 can be the year I find my voice and own my story.  I don’t know that I will ever feel ready to do this, but I think I have to . . . for me.  I think it’s about loving myself . . . giving myself permission to feel and to heal. How about you? Are you ready to take a courageous first step toward that blank white page?



Several months ago I began learning to meditate. I downloaded the Headspace meditation app, and it gave me a terrific start. I would have kept using it, but beyond a certain point you have to begin paying a monthly fee that I felt was out of my price range. I then found an app called Meditation Timer.

I edit the Meditation Timer app for the length of time for my session. I’m still just doing ten or fifteen minutes, but that quiet, centering time has become precious to me. You can choose a sound for your start chime, interval time, and end time. The interval chime will sound when you want it to; you can set it for halfway through or whenever you like. I like to set it to chime when I have two minutes left to go.

You may never have considered meditation as a practice before. Or you may not understand what benefit there is to this practice. For myself, my life had become extremely busy. I was a full time employee and a full time student last fall. I have a family with a husband and two young adults at home, four adult children out on their own, a daughter-in-law, and one young granddaughter. The political climate coupled with world events was causing me great anxiety, because I am both an idealist and have a passion for social justice. My emotions were out of control, and I was finding it difficult to focus. I was struggling to keep my busy life together, feeling like I was going crazy. And I was physically exhausted.

Here’s what I have found on my short meditation journey: Meditation is not ’emptying your mind’. I don’t believe it is possible to empty one’s mind. Meditation is done in the context of silence, stillness, and solitude. These three things focus me inward to that place where my spirit is calm. In that calm, quiet place I reach out to understand the reality that I am not alone. In meditation I am positioning myself to experience that still, small voice that I have trouble hearing through the clamor of my thoughts, emotions, and the busyness of my life. I meditate to connect to my true self and to God. Sometimes I say these words  to focus and calm myself: “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still, Be.” I say them slowly, focusing on their meaning. I am talking to my own soul, offering open arms to those parts of me that are sad, angry, confused, exhausted.

I do not actively try to quiet my emotions. I am a Feeler; I have accepted that I experience life through a rich tapestry of emotions. But I also realize that they are like wild horses that will run away with me if I let them. They will take me to dark places where truth and light cannot be found. So as I sit in meditation, I allow emotions and thoughts to surface. I let them be what they are and then float away. Sometimes I picture myself sitting beside a stream. Leaves are slowly falling from trees around me, and as thought and emotions surface, I allow them to land on a leaf and float away down the stream. I consciously turn my thoughts to the silence, stillness, and solitude, remembering that I am not alone. I console the sad parts of me, offering myself the same understanding and comfort that I would a friend.

A while back I began rising earlier to spend time in prayer before my day begins. I added these small meditation sessions to that time. If my prayer time is difficult, because my mind is wandering or my emotions are bubbling up, I stop and meditate. I calm my soul and move to my spirit, making space for God to meet me. Then I return to my prayers able to focus. Sometimes I meditate at the end of my prayers, and sometimes my ten minutes are not enough and I do another ten minutes. Sometimes I do this because I feel the need for more time. Sometimes I do this because I am enjoying it so much that I don’t want to stop quite yet.

My meditation practice will expand as I become more experienced. I am not concerned about forcing myself to meditate for an hour. There is no standard, no goal. I am simply learning what I need to do to be balanced and healthy on the inside. My husband reports that I seem more peaceful. It is working for me right now, so I will keep going. If you think meditation is something you would like to explore, check out the Headspace app. It will give you a foundation to begin to build upon. The Meditation Timer app is a great tool as well. Remember, this is your practice. No one can tell you you’re doing it wrong, not doing it long enough, etc. Just enjoy the fruits of spending some time in silence, stillness, and solitude. Give yourself the gift of your attention and care. Make the choice to love yourself. Focus on that place within where God meets with only you, and you will be better able to love others.

Welcome, 2018


I got a great gift this year. It’s the same gift we all got – a spotless new year. A chance to do things differently.

Even if you’re not the type to make resolutions, I’m sure there are things you wish you’d done differently in 2017. Maybe you made a list last January and didn’t see it through. Maybe last year was difficult, and you’re tired . . . maybe a little scared. Or maybe you’re thoroughly discouraged, and you can’t bring yourself to even begin to think about 2018 yet.

May I offer one small word of encouragement? Instead of making a list of resolutions for January 1st, choose just one thing that will make a difference in your experience of life. Take the month of January to make that one thing a part of your routine. Make it specific and easy to do. Then do whatever prep work you need to do to make it happen. For example, if you’ve decided to wake up 20 minutes earlier to meditate, add a meditation timer app to your phone. If you know you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, you might decide to add one serving of fruit to your breakfast. To prep for this, make a list of all the fruits you like. Make sure you have one or two available each day. Don’t go out and buy a variety of fruits and make grand plans to try new things. Just eat one fruit you know you like every day. The rest will come later.

Make sure that your one thing is something that will have an immediately and positive affect on you personally and your experience of your self and your life. You are empowering yourself, making a difference in your own life one small step at a time. There is no need to overwhelm yourself with regrets or lists. Just one thing . . . the beginning of many ‘one things’ . . . you taking control of yourself and your life.

If you don’t know what to choose, sit down and take an inventory. Talk to a close friend or two . . . they can see things about you, both positive and negative, that will help you. And don’t worry – it doesn’t matter what you choose. Just choose one thing and make it a part of your practice. It could be that your one thing is a hard thing. Maybe you need to begin seeing a counselor or therapist. Maybe your doctor has told you to make major lifestyle changes. Maybe you need help to do this one thing. Help is out there. Please, love yourself enough to find it.

Let 2018 be your year of empowerment . . . of small steps in a good direction . . . of commitment not to a list, but to yourself. And maybe when 2019 rolls around, you’ll look back on a year that makes you proud.



Much has been written about the authentic self.  We put a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy into connecting with some part of ourselves that is untouched by the world around us.  On some level, I think we want to affirm our own uniqueness . . . we want to connect to something pure.  But what if it’s all a sham?  A baby is quietly formed in darkness . . . in water . . . it’s mind is a devoid of knowledge . . . formless and void.  Once she is born, she begins to be formed by her interaction with the world around her.  She learns and grows, covered with fingerprints from day one.  As adults, it’s tempting to look back at the innocent days of young childhood as the last dying days of our unique self.  The harsh, unwelcome reality is that the little girl with blond curls was no more pure or authentic than I am now.  Sure, she was more naive . . . untouched by the discordant relationships around her for a time . . . not yet tainted by the cruelties and injustices time would bring.  She was not yet broken, and unaware of the slow chipping process that had begun.  But she was not authentic, not in the truest sense of the word.  Her only real uniqueness lies in the mind of God, in His idea of her before she ever took on human flesh.  And as He knit her together in the womb of an 18-year old, unmarried girl who had her own scars to bear, he knew she would be formed by the world around her from the moment of her birth . . . and he was okay with that.  God has always been in a cooperative relationship with humankind.  Even in this, the cycle of humans begetting human flesh, He shines in it’s midst, taking dreams of beautiful souls, and placing them inside these fleshly bodies, allowing them to be transformed by time and experiences.  To those who would say we are God-like, I say yes . . . yes, we are – created in His image and likeness . . . His are the first fingerprints we bear.  And to those who would say we are wretched, ruined creatures, I say yes – we are tainted from the beginning . . . and we chip and crack . . . and we are broken.  Maybe the trick isn’t to look for an authentic self somewhere deep inside or down the long, lonely road back to childhood.  Maybe the answer is to accept the truth that we are born a mixture of the Divine and the profane, and that the struggle is both our brokenness and our salvation.  We have hope, because we know He holds all the broken pieces, and He has not forgotten who we are in His eyes.

Walking Among Starfish


And Justice for All

My old blog was called “Real”, and this was my first post . . . I was re-reading them all and decided to repost this one, because it really captures the essence of my thoughts and values, as well asmy real purpose in blogging. . .

Awareness . . . it all begins there. The first moment that the reality of something enters your consciousness . . . what will you do with that awareness? You have a lot of options, you really do. You could immediately turn your mind to something else . . . get busy . . . forget what it was you saw or heard. You could rationalize . . . reason . . . make an excuse? Anger . . . you could get real angry . . . fume and fight and get on a soapbox . . . and then . . …

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