She Saw Me

Hey, readers.

Since I’ve been here in Georgia, I’ve noticed how contentious my Black Lives Matter shirt can be. In NYC, multiple people would exclaim their approval of it whenever I left the house with it on. But, here, oh no. I get stares and scoffs from old white men and approving looks from young and old African-Americans. It’s rare that an African-American openly applauds my shirt here in Georgia.

This morning, after church, I stopped by Mary Mac’s Tea Room in downtown Atlanta for lunch with my mother. We sat at the bar and enjoyed southern classics: fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter pie. Black southerners have given us amazing food, have they not? Lord have mercy!

In the restaurant, I noticed that all around me were people of various backgrounds, but mostly black and white, segregated. That’s right. While segregation isn’t technically legal anymore in this country, people will still segregate themselves. In the room, there were several full tables with black families and one table with a white family. While eating lunch with my mom, I noticed that a young white lady, probably early 20s, kept glancing over at me. Immediately I ran through the possible reasons for this:

  1. She sees my shirt and disapproves. 
  2. She thinks my mom and I are being too loud.
  3. She’s a racist.

I’m not happy to admit this. I think I assume most white southerners are racist, but God has been showing me otherwise. You know, when she came up to the black waiter in the room, I immediately assumed she was going to complain about the black family next to her. Maybe she thought they were seated too close to her? I don’t know what I thought. But I prepared myself to verbally defend them, if she was going to complain. But, she didn’t. She just asked for a peach cobbler.

Lord forgive me. I try not to be too hard on myself when it comes to this, but it’s difficult.

Before leaving, this young white lady approached me, tapped me on the arm, and said,

” I just wanted to say that I love your shirt.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” I exclaimed, stunned!

“I’m a huge supporter…” she said, her eyes telling me that she wanted to say, “I totally think the police are racist and no one understands that racism still exists!”

“Oh, wow. Thanks! I really appreciate that!”

She sat back down with her family and we waved at each other before I left.

 

While walking back to my mom’s car, several thoughts ran through my mind. Wow. First of all, wow. This young white lady came over to me, pointed out my BLM shirt, and verbally agreed with me. But, she was doing so much more than offering up a compliment. She stood by me. She saw me. She acknowledged my struggle and the struggle of my PoC brothers and sisters. She became an advocate, standing alongside me, a young black Latina woman. 

Thank You, Jesus, for showing me that there are people who will stand by me, even when I don’t expect them to. Forgive me, Lord, for stereotyping white southerners and expecting the worst from them. They surprise me every day.

 

Blessings.

 

Gabrielle G.

Menstruation Shame is Why We Need Feminism

Dear readers,

You know, because I live in the US, I often forget just how free I am to be a woman. I know that many feminists in this country would argue that women are not free, but when we look at other countries, nothing that we endure can compare to what happens to women around the globe.

I’m a woman of color, which means that I’m discriminated against twice over in this country. Sometimes people make ignorant comments about me or assume that I participate in Latino stereotypes about women. That gets pretty annoying. But, that’s not why I’m a feminist.

I’m so relieved that I live in a country where I don’t have to die because I have a period. I can easily go to the drugstore, purchase a pack of sanitary pads, and buy them without shame. No one will wrap them up in newspaper or hide them in a black plastic bag. My family members won’t shun me and cast me aside like a dirty thing to be avoided.

I’m a feminist because there are so many places in the world where this happens every day. Lately, I read about a young lady in Nepal, Tulasi Shahi, who recently died from a poisonous snake bite while exiled for having a period. Of course this was not planned by anyone so we can’t really blame someone, right?

Right. We can’t really blame a person. But, we can shed light on cultural practices that violate human rights. It’s difficult to point to these cultural practices and critique them because they aren’t objects detached from feelings or history. Real people practice these very real practices. So how can we respond to cultural practices that restrict human rights?

We look to Jesus. In Jesus’ culture, menstruating women were also viewed as dirty and shameful. They were shunned and cast aside by society for the duration of their period. Therefore when Jesus met a bleeding woman with love and acceptance, it rocked everyone around them.

In Luke 8:43-48, we’re told about a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. TWELVE YEARS! Can you imagine? That means for twelve years she has been excluded from society and treated as subhuman. She sees Jesus in the crowd, she’s heard of His power and love, and she knows that if she touches the hem of His garment, she will be healed.

Thinking that she’ll be cast aside if she openly asks Jesus for healing, as so many have done, she slipped into the crowd and gently touched the hem of His garment. Jesus felt healing power flow from Him and He asked her to identify herself as the one who touched Him. He didn’t just let her go away physically healed. He wanted her to speak, to show herself to the crowd, and to feel acknowledged. He tells her that her strong faith has healed her and she goes away in peace.

A Jewish man in 1st century Palestine healed a menstruating woman, spoke to her as an equal human being, and blessed her as she went on her way. He defied culture in order to bring healing to her body and her soul. That must be our reaction. Culture is not bad; God delights in the different ways we live and worship Him. But, when culture supersedes God’s call to love Him and love others as we love ourselves, it must be challenged. Culture must submit to God’s word, no matter how long the traditions have existed. 

Periods are awesome. God made them. Embrace them.

 

Gabrielle G.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/10/asia/nepal-menstruation-hut-deaths-outrage/?iid=ob_homepage_deskrecommended_pool

 

When It All Falls Apart (Job)

Peace be with you, dear readers.

If you know me outside of my blog, you know that this past year has been incredibly difficult. I’ve been feeling quite a bit like Job, as dramatic as that sounds. Through my past and continual losses, I’m slowly learning about the sovereignty of God, His grace, and just how much of a threat I am to the kingdom of darkness.

Now, many of you are experiencing a difficult situation at the moment. I don’t know what that is, but let me tell you that it is certainly not meaningless. God takes our painful moments, that He allows to happen, and uses them for our benefit and His glory. How does He do this?

First, let’s take a look at my 2017 and then I can explain how God is restoring my life.

In 2017, thus far, these different tragedies have taken place:

  1. I lost my job teaching ESL because they didn’t have a class for me to teach.
  2. Grad school fell apart for me and I had to drop out.
  3. Because I was living off of my loans, that meant I had no more money to survive on.
  4. My parents’ marriage began falling apart and is now completely dissolved.
  5. My father was rushed to the hospital with a blood clot in his lung and is recovering.
  6. I was forced by circumstances to move to Atlanta because I could no longer afford my apartment, which means I left all of my friends.
  7. My favorite aunt, who has Lupus, feels that God is slowly calling her home.

Damn! That’s a lot, right?? It seems overwhelming when it’s written in a list. Trust me, experiencing it was even more overwhelming.

As each part of my life began falling apart, I began falling as well. I fell into a depression. My body rejected food. A few sips of soup were all I could take for a day. My mind craved sleep. I passed the afternoons with naps. All I could think was, “What’s the point anymore?” “Does life really matter?” “Maybe it would be better if it were all over.”

Lord Jesus that should have been the biggest red flag that I was being spiritually attacked! Think about the story of Job in the Bible. Job was a man who enjoyed earthly prosperity and comfort while recognizing that it was all from God and loving God deeply. He was a blameless man and had a solid reputation. Because of his love for God and his loyalty, Satan asked God if he could test Job. Satan told God that if God took away all of Job’s comforts and security, then Job would curse Him to His face.

Ouch.

Now God told Satan that he could take anything from Job except he couldn’t kill Job. So Satan destroyed every aspect of Job’s life. He lost it all! Yet, in the beginning, Job still praised God and worshipped Him through his pain.

When Job’s friends began to accuse him of committing some sin or Job’s wife doubted God, Job began to fall. Without any material pleasures or human companionship, Job fell into the darkness and cried out to the Lord. 

The Lord heard him, comforted him, and restored to Job twice of what was lost.

Some people may find it dramatic to compare myself to Job. I don’t. God didn’t give us Job’s story so we could look at it and think, “Oh wow, that sucks. Good thing I have Jesus and nothing bad can happen to me!” Sorry to burst your bubble, but when you sign up to be a Christian, you sign up for Jesus’ army. You are putting yourself out there to be attacked. Expect it.

Because we love Jesus and serve Him, we are a prime target for the enemy. Every moment of your life, he tries to take your eyes off of God. His ultimate goal is your destruction. As Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” Satan wants to steal from you. He wants to kill you. He wants to destroy you and your life.

Scary, right? But it doesn’t have to be!

As believers in Christ Jesus, we have His Holy Spirit inside of us who protects us completely from Satan. We have been washed with the blood of the Lamb and no weapon formed against us can stand (Is. 54:17). Jesus has actually given us all authority over Satan and his demons. We have the power to tell Satan to leave, to cast out demons, and to break strongholds in Jesus’ name (Luke 10:19).

Believe in that authority, because it comes from God. It is not dependent on your strengths and weaknesses. In fact, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Do not be fearful because fear is from the enemy. The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).

Earlier I mentioned that God takes brokenness and makes it beautiful again. He really does. That’s what He yearns to do. That’s who He is! That’s the whole point of the Gospel! We’re so incredibly broken and awful things happen to us, but Jesus restores us inwardly so we can restore things outwardly (He also takes care of outward things as well!).

He’s currently doing that in my life. Yes, all of those terrible aforementioned things have happened, but here’s what also happened:

  1. I have valuable bonding time with my family again.
  2. The Lord has provided me with a good Christian community.
  3. The Lord just gave me a new job today (I actually got the call today. Woo!)
  4. He is slowly revealing more of His lovingkindness and His plans for my life through our quiet time together.

So, brothers and sisters, take heart. Remember that no spiritual attack can come to you that God Himself has not allowed. Suffering grows our faith, if we choose to abide in Christ. Christ promised that He Himself will finish the good work He started in you (Phil. 1:6).

Remember that all of the Gospel greats have been viciously attacked because of their potential in Christ. Many of them were promised great things by God and died with that hope (Hebrews 11). But we finish our race well by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, looking at His suffering throughout His ministry and death, and keep running!! (Hebrews 12).

If you are a Christian and you’re being attacked by Satan, rejoice because your name is a threat to the kingdom of darkness. What Satan and the world mean for evil, God means for your GOOD! (Genesis 50:20).

Combat the enemy’s darts through prayer, reading the Word, fasting, staying in community, and just believing that God will redeem you. Behold, He is coming soon on His white horse, ready to reclaim His bride. Trust in that.

 

Be blessed.

 

Gabrielle G.

 

Check out what John Piper has to say on Job:

Restoring Distorted Family Legacies

If you ask me what my family has been known for throughout the generations, I could easily list several negative things: drug abuse, domestic violence, witchcraft, poverty, lack of education, etc.

We’re also known for our resilience. Many of us have served the US through military service. Most of the younger generation has dedicated their lives to serve The Lord. 

These positive aspects of my family’s legacy don’t really outweigh the negative aspects, especially when you consider the spiritual realm.

One of the more painful parts of my family’s legacy has been the involvement in witchcraft, or Santeria, as Latinos like to call it. Santeria is not considered witchcraft by many Latinos, rather it is viewed as the cultural expression of Latino Christianity. Yes, those who practice Santeria believe themselves to be Christian, most of the time. They pray to saints with candles (the ones you see at the botanicas on the street), they have statues of saints that they feed, give money to, or do some other type of ritual to. But, many of these people will tell you that they love Jesus and they do these rituals for good. This “religion” came from our African ancestors who were forced into Catholicism. Rather than give up their paganism, they simply molded the two together and worshipped their idols under the guise of Catholicism.

Readers, Santeria is NOT Christianity. Jesus tells us that we cannot mix light and dark. Light has no fellowship with darkness. (2 Cor. 6:14-17). Jesus repeatedly tells us in Scripture that He is the only way to God (John 14:6), and that He is the ONLY mediator (I Timothy 2:5). Scripture warns us in multiple passages against becoming involved in the occult and gives us examples of people who give up that life to follow Jesus. (Deut. 18:10-11, Lev. 19:31, Acts 16:16-18, Acts 19:19).

Santeria was the legacy of my family. It kept my Puerto Rican family in bondage for generations. The Lord in His tender lovingkindness looked upon my mother and chose her to be the one to break this generational sin. He did this by instructing her in His ways from her childhood and as a result, her mother (my abuela) came to faith as did I, also in my childhood.

Praise be to The Lord!

Since Santeria is witchcraft, we know that those who practice it are exposed to demonic activity and to possession by demons themselves. I have to wonder if the vicious cycles of drug abuse, domestic violence, molestation, poverty, and lack of education are all due to my family’s involvement with witchcraft. I’m inclined to believe that it’s the cause, because we know that The Lord brings restoration, peace, and comfort to our souls.

It’s tough for me to swallow this part of my family’s legacy. I wish it were not so, but then The Lord reminds me that He takes the most unlikely candidate and turns them into one of His fiercest and bravest soldiers. Although my family was bound in the past, the generations to come (should The Lord tarry), will not be bound by any of those generational sins and curses.

Who would have thought that the great-granddaughter of a woman who practiced Santeria would be a strong-minded, discerning, loyal follower of Jesus Christ? I thank God that He is restoring my family’s story through my mother and through my own life as well.

How does one restore their family’s legacy? Simple. Jesus! Give your life to Jesus and He breaks any generational sin and/or curse. He will restore what has been broken through His hand over your life.

 

Rest in His arms,

 

Gabrielle G.

Who Is Kajol?

She was smokey; that’s how she felt to me. A young teen she was, but she reflected something mysterious and unspoken when we met. A nose ring glittered against her cinnamon skin, which contrasted beautifully against her yellow salwar kameez. In the children’s park, she led me by the hand to her favorite spots: the statue of the elephant, the bushes of white flowers, and the clusters of dandelions. An hour passed like mere moments as we made wishes, watching the fluffy white stuff fly freely off the dandelion stems. Like children we swung from the swings, daring each other to go higher and higher. Fuchka was our afternoon snack and we laughed while popping those puris in our mouths.

While walking her back to her home in a local slum, still holding my hand, she suddenly looked up into my eyes and declared, “My name is Kajol.”

Knowing that her mother tongue was Hindi, I responded with, “Tera naam Kajol hai?”

She smiled and nodded.

I continued, “Oh! Well, mera naam Gabby hai!”

She laughed and introduced me to Barsha, the four-year old princess who claimed ownership of my other hand. Barsha had that adorable and common young Indian girl look: short, mushroom-like hair and a beautiful little dress. When I dropped these two princesses at home, knowing that the peaceful time we had just spent was rare for them, I left knowing that my life had just become altered in a way I never could have foreseen.

 

 

 

This is a snippet of this young lady who has taught me more about joy and resilience than anyone else I’ve known.

 

Gabrielle G.

Black Lives Matter – Bianca Roberson

Living in post-2016 election America has been interesting thus far. I find that I tend to bash the President and his followers on an almost daily basis. But, lately I’ve noticed that even mentioning his name, which I refuse to type here, is almost like when you experience acid reflux. It comes out of nowhere and burns you. So, I won’t mention him in this post. However I will preface this post with this fact: the President incites violence against people who are “other” almost every day with his hateful rhetoric and idiotic tweets.

Now that we know this is the climate we live in, let’s continue…

Recently, a young black high school graduate named Bianca Roberson was murdered by a white man on the street. According to various news articles, they had miscommunication about who was merging when and as a result, this white man experienced intense road rage. What did he do with his road rage? He shot her in the head.

Yes. He shot a young lady in the head because of “road rage.”

The news may call it road rage, but I say let’s call a spade a spade. It most likely had to do with the color of Bianca’s skin. Maybe he thought, “Who does this black girl think she is?” Only God knows what was in his heart, but I suspect this is true.

In his mind at the time, and probably before, Bianca’s life did not matter. He felt that he had the authority to pull the trigger on her existence, ending forever what beauty could have been. In that moment, he deemed that he was superior to her and that he could determine that her life should end, and end violently. When you shoot someone in the head, you shoot to KILL. I will say this until the day the Lord takes me: NO ONE has the right to take another human’s life, or even their own life. God is ruler over all. He created us and breathed His breath into our lungs. HE determines how and when someone dies, not us.

While reading news articles on Bianca’s murder, I’ve come across a few that state, “He was a good kid.” “He usually was calm and cool.” Enough of that.

 

Let’s discuss what we know about Bianca:

  1. She had JUST graduated from high school and was looking forward to attending college in the fall.
  2. She was coming back from purchasing college things with her family.
  3. She enjoyed playing basketball and had a joyful disposition.

 

Friends, the primary issue humanity has is that some people do not see other groups of people as equally human. We refuse to see the humanity in those who are different than us and as a result, we murder them, steal from them, rape them, and ignore their needs.

When we begin to see each other as equally human, equally valuable, equally special, things will change. But this value does not come from our accomplishments, our color, our language, etc. It comes from the fact that we are all created by God and made in His image. When we understand that we are image bearers of God, we will extend the arm of empathy, compassion, and justice toward each other.

 

Life is precious. Life is sacred. Life is holy. Respect and honor it, no matter what.

 

Black Lives Matter.

 

 

Gabrielle G.

 

Black Girls Learn Languages Feature!

Happy Monday!

Today, I woke up to an incredibly generous feature on one of my favorite blogs, Black Girls Learn Languages. The blog’s mama, Shahidah, created her blog as a space to create community for multilingual women of the African diaspora. It’s rare to find much recognition for multilingual PoC, so I’m grateful for her work.  She discusses things such as famous black linguists, what being “fluent” really means, and she highlights young black multilingual people, such as yours truly.

Check out her blog and read her featured post about me, if you’d like!

http://www.blackgirlslearnlanguages.co/multilingual-black-women/young-gifted-black-meet-gabrielle

 

 

 

 

Gabrielle G.

Who Am I?

Good question…I think I’m still figuring that out.

What I can say now is that I’m a twenty-something believer in Jesus with a huge passion for social justice and cultural inclusion. I’ve spent some time in India, exploring what God has made there and what He’s doing through His people. That time has been transformative and as a result, my Christian worldview has greatly altered. I have a lot of opinions about true Biblical Christianity and how it’s often so different from what we find in our churches.  For now I’ll say that Church did not begin in the US and it won’t end here.

More Specific Details:

  1. Cum Laude BA in English (with departmental honors) from CUNY Hunter
  2. ESL Instructor
  3. Writer
  4. Lover of flowers and children (because they’re what life’s about)

 

Gabrielle G.

Let Freedom Ring?

This is my first “Independence Day” in the US in about two years. In 2015 and 2016, I was blissfully traveling in India, where the 4th of July was just another day to everyone around me. I wasn’t asked about it and I liked it that way.

I suppose that it’s important to mention that lately I’ve found my patriotism to be difficult to maintain considering how our country is rapidly burning. Well, it was always on fire but most of us weren’t aware just how hot the fire could be until the 2016 election showed us the hateful face of America.

America has given me incredible privileges. The fact that I’m free to start a blog, that I am literate, and that I even have the free time to engage in this form of expression is a privilege. I’m aware that my Cum Laude BA, my middle class parents, mid-tone skin color, and citizenship are massive privileges.

But, my anger with this country is not because I lack comforts or rights in any way. It’s not about me; it’s about my brother and sister. It’s difficult for me to trust the police when I see my black brothers and sisters shot like animals on the street. It’s difficult for me to embrace my Caucasian brother- or sister-in-Christ when I see many professing Christians ripping off women’s hijabs or chanting “Build the wall!”

It’s easy for me to look at the state of the American Church now and shake my head, beat my chest, and tear my clothes in distress. However, what I’m coming to realize and understand is that our church history was always this way. We Christians have owned slaves and justified it; it’s being justified in churches today as well. We have decided that women should have no voice in the church and it’s still difficult for women to stand behind a pulpit and speak about what God has done in them and through them. We have told people that their language is not fit for church, their dancing is too charismatic, and their Bible must be the KJV. We’ve made idols of abortion and homosexuality, forgetting that if we’re pro-life, we’re pro-every life, not just unborn. And when homosexuality is mentioned in the New Testament, it’s typically in a group of other sins, which tells us that neither Jesus nor Paul overly emphasized homosexuality (in fact, Jesus never mentioned it).

How do we not see that these racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic traditions permeate our church buildings and manifest in the hatred we read about in the news?

Today in my Georgian church (state, not country), the theme for the service was “God Bless America.” “Oh boy. Here we go”, I thought, as I walked past hundreds of people donning American flag-themed clothing and hats. Huge American flags decorated every part of the sanctuary. “Oh no.” I sat through most of the strong patriotic expressions with mild discomfort, but when it came time to worship The Lord, I found the music choices a little pale.

The worship minister quoted several “founding fathers” of our faith (in the US, at least), and brushed aside those aforementioned fathers’ affinity for slavery and misogyny. The hymns chosen were beautiful and they deeply touched my heart, but after the service I was left with uncomfortable feelings. Why was only white Christianity celebrated and revered? Were not the African slaves actually masters of painful, glorious, heart-wrenching spirituals that praised the Everlasting God? Where were those in the service? Was their Christianity inferior? Or maybe no one wanted to talk about that part of the Church’s past.

The pastor spoke of returning to the way things were in the Church, but I don’t want to do that! Jesus doesn’t want us to, either, if I may be so bold. We have our “founding fathers” before us as examples of men who pursued God, but let color, gender, culture and economics/politics keep them from truly living out the Gospel. Thanks, guys. But, now, we know better. Well, we’re supposed to know better. We must desire to do a better job of representing Christ and His Church (Us) on this earth.

As Christians, we must:

  1. Make God our ultimate authority
  2. Rely on Scripture and NOT Church tradition (traditions are fine, but not when they hinder growth or reconciliation)
  3. Pursue racial, linguistic, cultural, etc. reconciliation with all people
  4. Include others in our worship services.

Remember, the Church began in the Middle East, not the USA.

 

Here’s a great video where Michelle Higgins, a Christian social justice activist, explores this topic in depth:

 

Happy Independence Day.

 

 

Gabrielle G.