Métis Identity: Past, Present, and Future

by Marcia Veldman
Athabasca University

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A Métis York boat brigade at Cumberland House, Sask., 1912. (Photo: Library and Archives Canada, PA-017395)

The Métis ethnogenesis was born from a confluence of identities both assigned by Indigenous nations and Euro-Canadian fur traders, as well as self-identified by the Métis community themselves.  The diaspora of the Métis across North America did not diminish the strong will of the Métis to collectively self-identify as a community, an identity that grew within the new generations of Métis as they continued to live on ancestral lands, practice their culture, and speak Michif when possible.

The act of Métissage (racial mixing) began when European immigrants established contact with the indigenous inhabitants of both the north and south Americas.  As France established settlements in the New World, they attempted to assimilate the indigenous people to the European life by “trying to use racial intermixing as an instrument of the empire”;  the attempt to create a French New World by producing offspring of French settlers failed as the generations began to self-identify as a New Nation: Métis.  However, the Métis were not restricted to being solely of French heritage: the European backgrounds were varied between French, Scottish, and English, and marriages to native women would occur among English fur traders and settlers on Hudson Bay as native women proved invaluable with their knowledge and skills navigating the local terrain.  Perhaps even more confusing was the fact that not all offspring of those in interracial relationships considered themselves Métis – some simply self-identified as “Half-breeds” or “country born Indians”.  It seems impossible to define the Métis identity as being comprised strictly of one component or another.

Geographically the strongest presence of Métis identity is observed in the Prairie provinces; although the identity of the Métis may be diminished in the Eastern provinces, Jacques Rousseau claimed that “forty percent of French Canadians could find at least one Amerindian in their family trees” and one can extrapolate that the supposed absence of Métis in these province may be due to the century old denial of historians of the existence of the Métis .  Despite Samuel de Champlain’s statement to the Indians: “Our young men will marry your daughters, and we shall be one people” , European settlers were reluctant to accept the existence of interracial offspring due to their post-Renaissance ideals of pure bloodlines.

While the Métis identity may not have flourished in Eastern provinces, the community continued to grow in the interior provinces and prairies.  The male Métis offspring became proficient as hunters, trappers, or canoemen, while the females learned traditional skills from their mothers such as constructing shelters and preparing food.  Many Métis men worked as agents for the Hudson Bay Company or North West Company, and they could be identified by their “blue capote (coat), beaded pipe bag and bright red L’Assomption sash”, creating a type of cultural uniform.  The Métis clothing would become a combination of European embroidery and utilitarian materials, creating a clothing conducive to life in the wilderness .  From within this community grew a fierce sense of independence, characterized in the Cree name given to them: Otipemisiwak, meaning, “the people who command themselves” or “the free people” .  As the Métis began to self-identify culturally as a distinct community, the Indigenous people and European immigrants acknowledged the Métis existence by assigning names and definitions of the Métis as a cohesive and singular group of people.

The identity of the Métis deepened as Michif, a language formed from the mixing of French and Cree linguistics and said to be “a unique outcome of Métis mixed ancestry and creativity” , became the primary language of the Métis.  Michif itself is likely to have begun upon initial contact between the French settlers and Indians, although there is little historical record regarding the evolution of the language .  Despite the undeniable existence of this language, Michif continues to be ignored, and attempts to introduce Michif as a language officially taught or spoken within reservations has been met with opposition as some believe Ojibwa and Cree should be taught in their pre-European state without reflecting the influence of European languages .

In 1814, Miles Macdonnell, Governor of Assiniboia, issued a proclamation prohibiting the Métis from selling goods to fur trade companies .  Other punitive proclamations would follow, causing tensions between the Métis and Upper Canada, and ultimately leading to a military skirmish in 1816.  Following this uprising, the Métis flag was flown for the first time, an infinity symbol representing the eternal synthesis of two cultures.  Despite the Métis having been recognized by as a distinct community by other Indigenous nations, Euro-Canadians, Europeans, and colonial United Kingdom, they remained ineligible for land grants and were excluded from the treaty systems .  Disagreements over the attempts to dispossess Métis from their land created a catalyst leading to further military action under the leadership of Louis Riel.

Despite facing systemic prejudice and racism, like their ancestors before, the Métis have survived hardships to emerge as a community with a stronger identity and a clear voice that demands to be heard.  Though their language is ignored, their history denied, and their existence diminished, the Métis continue to evolve and share their culture for those of us who need to hear their story.  The identity of the Métis does not rely on being of certain mixed heritage, but rather exists as a result of Métis ancestors making the conscious decision to self-identify as a singular nation and community of people rather than identifying as a mixed-race nation.  Today, the Crown- Métis Nation Summits have been a significant step in reconciliation between the Government of Canada and the Métis Nation.  The Canadian government has pledged to listen to concerns raised by the Métis Nation and work together toward reconciliation and a better understanding of what it means to identify as Métis in modern day Canada.

 

 

 

​Three Approaches: The Interpretation of the Numbered Treaties

by Marcia Veldman
Athabasca University

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This is an original photograph of the conclusion of negotiations for Treaty No. 3 at the North West Angle. It was taken by Wright Bros. Photographers of Rat Portage, now Kenora, Ontario. The photo shows a gathering of First Nations Treaty negotiators. In the front row are four men, three of whom are wearing medals that represent Canada’s Treaty promises. Two of the men hold pipes with long pipe stems of the type used to invoke the Creator as witness to verify First Nations‘ and the Crown’s commitments to the terms of the Treaty.

From 1871 to 1921, a series of eleven treaties were signed between the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the Crown, agreements describing exchanges of ancestral lands for varied payments in return.  Although the treaties inscribed on paper are preserved for examination in our current time, the oral promises exchanged between the Chiefs and Commissioners have attenuated and diminished with the passing of time.  In recent years, cases have been brought to the Supreme Court of Canada to examine whether the federal government has fulfilled its treaty promises to the Indigenous peoples, thus demonstrating how the addressed treaties are legally interpreted by Canadian courts.  There are three primary way wherein the treaties may be interpreted:  through the literal approach of studying physical documents, through the “spirit and intent” approach focusing on the Indian understanding and oral accounts of the treaties, and through the legal interpretations from Canadian and International courts.   

When considering the literal documents which were signed by both Indigenous Chiefs and Commissioners of the Crown, it is important to note the differences between the Euro-Canadian and Indigenous cultures Although the European settlers had used paper and coin currency as a means for payment for several hundred years, the Indians did not possess an understanding of the value of banknotes due to the recent introduction of it into their societies, therefore rendering the promises of financial annuities meaningless for many.  As stated in an interview with John Yellowhorn, “…no one explained to the Indian what this paper money was for.  They were told it was for trading, but they did not know its value…They did not know how to count it, what it was worth. .  Not only were the concepts presented by the Crown foreign to the Indigenous people—the treaties being written, and promises being spoken in English created another barrier to clear communication.  Interpreters were present at the signing of the treaties, yet not every dialect was represented, and the fairness of the interpreters was questionableIn 1877, the Cree brought Metis interpreter Peter Eramus to the signing of Treaty Seven to clarify the terms of the treaty.  Eramus later stated, “‘…my sympathies transferred to the Governor’s side.  From that point onward, Eramus was the main conduit through which information was passed from the Commission to the Indians” .  Finally, the Crown and each person involved with writing the treaties demonstrated a culture built from occidental philosophy, which included the concept of property ownership.  The British subscribed to the concept of private ownership, but the Indians cyclical philosophy led them to believe that land ownership was impossible as the lands belong to the Creator themselves. The Indians did not believe they could truly relinquish the property outlined in the treaties because “they were never given such unconditional ownership by their grantor (the Creator)…” . 

With the concepts presented in the written treaties lacking clarity, and the language used inaccessible for the Indians, the second approach to interpreting the treaties is invaluable to understanding how the spirit of the treaties was interpreted by the Indigenous peoples.  The Crown and Euro-Ccanadian settlers valued the power of written contracts and agreements but failed to understand that the Indians viewed oral promises in the same light:  as legal contracts andwhen oral communication takes place, it is understood that men are literally bound by their words” .  Logically, if the bands valued oral promises as strongly as written contracts, it would prove difficult for the Commissioners and agents to create an understanding that only written documents bore any legal weight with the signing of each treaty.  Though they attempted to clarify the contents and significance of the treaties, “there are serious doubts that the Commission was ever successful in explaining this concept to the Indians.  It was a constant problem associated with the negotiation of every Indian treaty” Intertwined with the importance of oral contracts was the spirituality wherein the Indians approached the treaty ceremonies:  the smoking of the peace pipe was a ritual of seeking guidance from the Great Spirit .  The Commissioners and agents, however, did not grasp the spiritual significance of these ceremonies to the Indigenous people; the spirit with which the Indians approached the treaties and the cultural philosophies they celebrated were significant to themselves but were not understood by other parties present.  These cultural differences are the fundamental reason why the spirit and intent with which the Indigenous people interpreted and participated in the treaty signings should be accounted for when considering the legality and content of the treaties. 

Finally, the third approach to interpreting the treaties is through international and Canadian laws, which differ significantly.  Though the Royal Proclamation of 1763 confirmed aboriginal rights and recognized “Indian title to land as having its source in Indian ownership from time immemorial” , the numbered treaties initiated by the Crown with Indigenous nations belied this proclamation.  The treaties were based upon the European doctrine of discovery, which held that the first European country to land on unexplored land held rights over the property , and they sought to nullify all Indian right to the land.  Today the Supreme Court of Canada does not recognize the Indigenous people as a sovereign nation and continues to hold land as Crown land even though the treaties were signed between two nations.  The proprietary approach that the Crown has exhibited towards all Indigenous nations is rooted in the English law system and does not adhere to the standards of international law .   

On reflection of the three approaches to interpreting the treaties, it is difficult to definitively state which approach is the most accurate.  The treaties were written by a party with a philosophy and culture that was dissimilar from those of the signing parties, creating an inherent cognitive dissonance.  Each approach is vital to interpreting the treaties, and therefore the written and oral contracts should be considered when examining the history and standing legalities of these treaties. 


References

 

 

 

 

Silenced Voices: The Systemic Suppression of Canadian Indigenous Women

by Marcia Veldman
Athabasca University

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Life on the reserves was difficult for Canada’s indigenous peoples such as these Cree women and children near Maskwacis (formerly known as Hobbema), ca. 1890s. They tried to adopt an agricultural lifestyle on land that they did not own or control—land that often was not suited for agriculture. Poverty was common throughout the reserves. Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-682-3

 

The cessation of Indian status for indigenous women who “married out” of Indian society or into other bands has caused exceeding socioeconomic, cultural, and personal harm, to both the affected women and those around them.  Although many laws, treaties, and acts laid basis for the paternalistic treatment of Indians and the discrimination against Indian women in particular, The Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869, which defined status Indians for the first time , and the Indian Act passed by federal parliament in 1876 were highly restrictive in the daily regulations of Indian lives and communities.  In 1985, Bill C-31 (Bill to Amend the Indian Act) was passed into legislation, legally entitling Indian women to gender equality as laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  While Bill C-31 was created to empower individual bands to become self-governing and autonomous, the power structures that remain intact today do not reflect the structures of band society that existed prior to colonization, specifically with regards to the status of Indian women.

To truly understand the negative effects the Indian Act and previous treaties had on Indian women, one must consider the sociological history of the various indigenous tribes and bands.  Despite the current Euro-Canadian patriarchal culture that Canadian society functions within, the indigenous societies were unique in often being matriarchal of nature: Indian women, specifically senior matrons, were both highly valued and carried vast responsibilities and authority within their bands, as the male members, known as hunters and gatherers, were frequently physically absent for long periods of time .  While the men followed the migratory patterns of buffalo, caribou, and other types of resources across vast spaces of land on hunting expeditions, the bands were managed by the women who remained behind with the elderly and young children.  Many First Nations were also matrilineal:  a family’s descent and inheritance were traced through the female for generations and senior matrons were empowered to elect chiefs and depose them when so desired .  Although certain bands may not have been solely matriarchal, traditional roles would have been egalitarian in these bands , and women would have been recognized as equal in status to male band members.  When considering all the roles that Indian women assumed within their families and bands, it is clear that they were valued as an integral piece of their indigenous communities, even as the maternal being was honoured in indigenous spiritual beliefs.

However, as the number of European settlers multiplied at a steady rate, European ideals and practices became the normative basis of life in Canada, which included the ideology of women being viewed as property of their male counterparts .  Victorian culture promulgated the notion that women were fragile gentle creatures, not built for physical labour or leadership; with these ideals, European settlers would have found any farming or various labour tasks Indigenous women performed vulgar and inappropriate.  The independence of Indian women economically, politically, and even sexually, did not reflect domestic Euro-centric ideals .  As the nineteenth century government of Canada became intent on “civilizing” the indigenous peoples, the true intentions of the Canadian government and the Canadian Indian Department would be exhibited and imbedded within legislation:  assimilation.  To successfully assimilate, the government introduced the concept of enfranchisement in the Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869 to male Indians, which involved terminating one’s Indian status and receiving full Canadian citizenship, thus ending any fiscal benefits an Indian may have received, as well as their cultural identities .  Although the concept of enfranchisement may have seemed feasible to the Canadian government, the notion of abandoning one’s community and identity was rejected by most male Indians, much to the government’s consternation and surprise.  Notably, married Indian women not offered sole enfranchisement without the permission of their husbands , and with that action the government arbitrarily relegated Indian women to a lesser status beneath their male equals and built a foundation of how Indian women would be treated and viewed for decades to come.

Indian women could no longer choose freely who they wanted to marry without the potential threat of being ejected from their community; those who did opt to “marry out” of their bands were displaced and disallowed from returning to live with their families on the reserves .  Any Indian women who married into another band were forced to sever ties with the bands they were born into, automatically relegated into their partner’s current band.  Section 6 of the 1869 Act, which reaffirmed the Victorian ideal that Indian women were to be submissive to their husbands while recognizing that their offspring would legally be his ,  would eventually become the cornerstone of Section 12.1.b of the Indian Act passed in 1951.

Despite 82 years passing between the Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869 and the Indian Act of 1951, the status of Indian women did not improve on the passing of the 1951 act.  The membership status of Indians became more complex, and the subsequent changes to the status of Indian women were deleterious. Prior to the 1951 Act, Indian women were discouraged from marrying outside of their societies with the threat of being removed from their communities; however, if they chose to marry outside of their society or into another band, they would still maintain Indian status and receive their lawful annuities.  With the passing of Section 12.1.b, Indian women who married a non-Indian would lose their status, band rights, treaty and health benefits, the right to live on their reserve and inherit property, and finally, the right to be buried with their ancestors . Section 12.1.b effectively removed any autonomy or legal rights of Indian women, placing them under the guidance and care of their husbands in a paternalistic act.  Although the 1951 amended oppressive sections regarding cultural Indian practices such as potlatch and wearing ceremonial dress, Indian women continued to be discriminated against even as the world was evolving and civil rights movements were gaining interest and popularity among the Canadian public .

After years of fighting for recognizable status, Bill C-31 passed in 1985 with three goals:  to address discrimination against Indian women within the Indian Act, to restore Indian status to those had lost their status due to discriminatory enfranchisement, and to create autonomy within bands regarding band memberships .  Bill C-31 amended the discriminatory legislation of Section 12.1.b from the 1951 Indian Act, but despite the changes to legislation and law, the decades of injustice perpetuated against indigenous women have caused grave social and psychological consequences that are impossible to measure definitively.  Decades of injustice and institutionalized mistreatment of Indian women has permeated native identity and communities with band governments failing to make the wellbeing of their women a priority .  A 2009 General Social Survey performed by Statistics Canada revealed that Aboriginal women were almost three times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than a non-Aboriginal woman .

There is no doubt that Aboriginal women have faced egregious harm since the beginning of Euro-Canadian colonization in Canada, having been stripped of their legal rights, identity, and independence for decades.  Although the Government of Canada has attempted to make reparations for racist and misogynist legislation that shaped the view of Indigenous women for decades, they continue to face discrimination, violence, and prejudice within their own communities and Canadian society.  As awareness continues to be raised regarding the history of Indigenous women, there remains hope that education and empathy will lend to building respect for the culture and identity of all aboriginal women, along with an empowerment and ability to raise their voices and finally be heard.

 

References

Chinook Multimedia. (2018). 1985 – Bill C-31. Retrieved from Canadian History: The Many Histories of Canada: https://canadianhistory.ca/natives/timeline/1980s/1985-bill-c-31

Crey, K. (2009). Enfranchisement. Retrieved from Indigenous Foundations: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/enfranchisement/

FemNorthNet. (2016). How Colonialism Affects Women. Retrieved from Feminist Northen Network: http://fnn.criaw-icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/LWM4_ColonialismWomen.pdf

First Nations Studies Program. (2009). Bill C-31. Retrieved from Indigenous Foundations: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/bill_c-31/

Hanson, E. (2009). Marginalization of Aboriginal Women. Retrieved from Indigenous Foundations: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/marginalization_of_aboriginal_women/

Hanson, E. (2009). The Indian Act. Retrieved from Indigenous Foundations: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_indian_act/

Harry, K. (2009). The Indian Act & Aboriginal Women’s Empowerment: What Front Line Workers Need to Know. Retrieved from Battered Women’s Support Services: http://bwss.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/theindianactaboriginalwomensempowerment.pdf

Jamieson, K. (1986). Sex Discrimination and The Indian Act. In J. Ponting, Arduous Journey: Canadian Indians and Decolonization (p. 113). Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Sayers, J. F., & MacDonald, K. A. (2001). A Strong and Meaningful Role for First Nations Women in Governance. Ottawa: Status of Women Canada.

Statistics Canada. (2009). Violent Victimization of Aboriginal Women in the Canadian Provinces. Statistics Canada.

 

 

 

Sea Prayer | Khaled Hosseini

Sea PrayerSea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have loved all of Khaled Hosseini’s previous works, specifically The Kite Runner. Even though Sea Prayer is a short book with 48 pages that only hold a few sentences, I did not find myself disappointed yet again. As I read to the last page, I was somewhat surprised to find such a short little book, perhaps even more aptly described as a poem or prayer, would overwhelm me with so much emotion. Again, I was surprised to wipe some tears out of my eyes.

My husband asked me if it was an appropriate book to read to our 3 year old and I didn’t know how to respond. The illustrations are stunning and the book raises global awareness. Though there are heavier nuances to it, can the raising of awareness to the plight of those around us ever be wrong? I have not read it to him yet and I probably would not read it ad verbatim as some of the language might be scary or overwhelming, but this is a stunning book that should be instituted in schools.

I hope those who complain about the cost of the book compared to the size of it’s content are aware of two things. One, the book is being sold to raise money for a charitable cause. Two, the quantity of a book does not measure it’s quality and vice versa.

Sea Prayer is the first novel I read in 2019 and I believe it will set a good tone for the rest of the reading I do this year. Please buy this book to support UNICEF and to enjoy something beautiful and moving.

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A Season of Grief

For a few weeks I have been struggling through something I finally feel ready to share with you, my friends.

At the end of November I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant. A pregnancy had not been planned, it wasn’t in my life schedule. I had lists and calendars–pregnancy wasn’t on it. My instinctive reaction wasn’t welcoming. How could I cope with pregnancy and a baby on top of the whirlwind known as Des, work and pursuing post secondary studies?

Over the next few days, I grew excited. Babies are a gift, a blessing. It wasn’t easy for me to conceive, so this was a good thing. We would make it work. I began to envision the baby–would he or she look like Des? What would they be like? I found myself thinking about tiny baby clothes, the little socks that fit on your finger like a glove. Des played with his cousin and I imagined him doing the same with a sibling. Life was so bright.

Through the awakening excitement, I also became aware that something didn’t feel quite right about my pregnancy. I couldn’t articulate it well. I reached out to my family physician to express my concerns and I was dismissed, told that “every pregnancy is different” and “your body is just changing”. I waited three weeks for my first ultrasound, moving from excitement to fear. The day of the ultrasound I let myself hope that maybe everything was alright, even though in my heart I was still inexplicably and deeply worried.

At the ultrasound there was no fetal pole in my uterus. I felt almost a sigh of relief at knowing I wasn’t crazy. There was something off, but it didn’t end there. There was no viable embryo in my uterus, but there was a mass outside my uterus, near my tube.

The doctors were confused. What was the mass? From there I descended into a whirlwind of invasive exams and blood poking. I felt that I was accepting of what happened, but in retrospect, I was numb. After multiple ultrasounds, margins still weren’t clear, but the pain I had been feeling pointed to an ectopic pregnancy, heterogenic due to the second egg in my uterus which wasn’t viable.

The day the doctors became decided on my diagnosis, I was rushed into surgery a couple hours later. The operating team gave me such compassionate care, rubbing my arms, holding my hands and telling me they were so sorry about the final diagnosis. “It’s okay, these things happen,” I replied, trying to convince myself with my calm responses. Post operatively the surgeon told me the egg had implanted in my ovary (which is rare) and it could have been fatal if I had continued on without surgery. I had a D&C to remove the second empty egg as well. I went home two hours later, early morning on December 17th and I carefully lay down on the couch and stared at the Christmas tree lights.

Christmas passed by in a whirlwind. My coworkers knew what had happened and sent me the kindest messages. Other friends who were aware of everything kept checking in on me and showed me their love and compassion. My family supported me from the distance with gifts to make up for missed work shifts. We had a quiet Christmas with a few siblings, but Desmond’s elation at learning how to open gifts filled my heart up. I was okay. I was moving on. On December 26 I went back to work for a short shift.

But grief is funny. Suddenly in this past week, especially the past two days, I changed. My hormone levels dropping probably have affected me, but I began snapping at my husband, who has only supported and helped me through it all. Flashes of anger I couldn’t control came over me. Tuesday night I had a panic attack in a grocery store and had to walk out, shaking and trembling, deeply afraid for no reason. Last night I sat on the couch with tears rolling down my cheeks, unable to control myself. I fell asleep crying. This morning Des knocked my coffee over and I exploded on Matt without reason.

What am I mourning? Something that was never meant to be? Am I truly grieving, or are my hormonal changes affecting my emotional state? Can I feel sad about something I never truly had? Is the mourning for what might have been, the hope I had cherished? Or am I indulging in self-pity?

Therein lies the mystery and conundrum of being a woman, being a mother, being pregnant for even only 7 weeks. Everything is speculation. Specialists say women who suffer a miscarriage/loss can experience moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety after loss, even to the point of being diagnosed with PTSD. There hasn’t been much research done, because when you have your D&C and your levels return to normal, your medical care ends and you are often left to seek treatment for your emotional stability on your own. Or not.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this, except maybe to share my experience with you, which you may be able to identify with if you have gone through loss yourself. Maybe this is another way I grieve. Maybe I needed to write this to work it out in my head and heart. Maybe I need you to tell me I’m not alone and slowly it will hurt less. Maybe I’m hoping to open up dialogue about miscarriage and loss, normalize it so it’s not something we whisper awkwardly about, unsure of what to say. Maybe I’m over-sharing and this will make you feel awkward.

But if you’re quietly going through this alone, I’m there with you. I walk beside you on the same path. I feel your hopelessness and grief. Who knows where we’ll end up with our hearts. All my heart knows right now is fear and sadness, but life carries on and time heals along with love–the neverending love from my husband and son which has held me up. I pray we will one day be healed, or even just more whole.

❤️

“PURPOSE” — Lent, Day 20

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Life.
One of the greatest gifts I have been blessed with is the birth and life of my son.

Like most parents, I want the best for him. I want him to be happy, I want him to be full of joy.
I realize how blessed I am to have been given this little life to teach and to bring to adulthood and then send out into the world.

As I have seen his needs met from infancy (food, milk, water, clothes, a home), I have witnessed him grow into a new toddler. My husband and I often ponder what he will “be like” as he ages.

We can already see the character he is developing: strong, independent, curious.

At this moment in time we are meeting his physical needs but also his emotional needs: we shower him with love and relationships.

When I think of the future though, I realize that my desire is for him to find his calling in life. So many people are deeply unhappy. I see it manifested on their Facebook statuses, in their conversations, through their general demeanor. We all have moments of unhappiness and discontent, but so many people I know seem so deeply empty and unhappy.

I want my son to know, to believe there is more in life. To believe there is a reason for his existence, for his dreams, for his destination.

I want him to know that life is not futile, that we are more than bodies seeking reason and fulfillment from materials around us. I deeply long for my son to have PURPOSE in his life.

Reflecting on how I want him to have purpose, I am only forced to ask myself the very same question.

What has my purpose in life been?
Is this truly my deepest purpose?
What is my passion?
How does my passion and purpose align?

We are never too old to ask ourselves these questions. We are never too old to evaluate where we are in life.

Is the life we are living the one HE meant for us to live?

 

And we know that is all things GOD works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Rom.8:28

 

 

DAILY PRAYER: LORD, make your purpose for my life clear to me, no matter how surprising or unexpected it may be. Give me strength to examine who and what I am living my life for. Amen.

“Abounding Grace” — Lent, Day 18&19

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Over the weekend my husband and I have faced conflict with each other.

During difficult times in life, particularly when it comes to marriage, there a few key ingredients that are more than ever during those moments.

In the previous Lenten devotional we delved a bit into forgiveness and how it essential it is in our lives, especially when it comes to our relationships. Even as we need forgiveness to continue on together, perhaps even more importantly: we need grace.

It’s a strange term “grace”. We probably don’t truly understand it even though it affects our daily lives. We more than likely don’t think about it and talk about it even less.

But the fact is–as we practice our daily walk as believers, the essence of our belief stems on grace. Grace is shown to us in our relationship with God and, with that in mind, we are almost obliged to learn how to practice grace in our relationships with others.

The inherent definition of grace is Biblical. Merriam-Webster defines grace as “a virtue coming from God” or “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification”.

Sometimes I think we trip up on the concept of it. Grace is bestowed by God so therefore we aren’t truly privy to it? We cannot understand or comprehend it? If we aren’t God himself, then how can we be expected to completely grasp what grace is and how to extend it to people around us?

It’s very clear that grace and forgiveness walk hand in hand. Perhaps grace is the divine strength that is given to us so we may extend forgiveness. Forgiveness is a conscious act and grace almost seems to simply flow through us from above.

Is it possible that grace is given to us specifically by the Holy Spirit to gird us for forgiveness and mercy?

It may be impossible for us to truly grasp what grace is, but maybe the point of grace is not to *understand* it, but to accept it and to show it to those around us.

This means that when we are fighting and strident, when we have the moral upper hand, that we show grace and forgiveness. I believe it means we don’t “rub it in” or behave superior because perhaps we have made better choices than our significant others.

In other words—we all need grace: to give and to receive…because we’re not always going to have the “upper hand”, so to speak.

Jesus showed abounding grace in the days leading up to his death and resurrection. Let us remember that as we move closer to the Easter season…and let us show grace (and forgiveness!) to those who need it the most from us, no matter how hard it may be.

 

grace

DAILY PRAYER: Lord, send your grace to me when I need it the most. Give me strength when I am facing conflict and help me to treat those around me with love, grace and forgiveness even when I am hurting. AMEN.

“REALITY” — Lent, Day 17

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It’s Sunday night.  Most of us are gearing up for the week to come.  This week in particular is busy for me and I am in bed already, exhausted from my son’s scrambled sleep thanks to Daylight Savings Time. On top that, the heat is once again not working properly in our bedrooms, which means another cold night with small space heaters to help keep the cold at bay.

There is a lot to be frustrated with right now.  In my life, I find that I want answers right away.  When I am in a conflict of any type, I want resolution instantly.  If I call to complain about heat, I want someone there  fixing it in a matter of hours (not days, as it happened last time).

The fact is:  there are always going to be issues and conflicts in life.  Each week brings them, whether they are small squabbles between my husband and I, larger issues like lack of heat, or even work conflicts.  This is the reality of life.

While I would absolutely love for everything to be perfect, for plans to roll out quickly, for responses to be fast and to my satisfaction, I am constantly being challenged and reminded that life…is actually a big messy series of difficulties and challenges…and that is never  going to change.

Even when we think “we’ve got it” and everything is perfect and copacetic, it’s not! Something is going to come crashing in to destroy (temporarily) our happiness or our best laid plans.

What can you do about it?
Stress and grow angry, take it out on people who love you, worry and have long sleepless nights?

The best thing we can do in life is grow and learn and change. Be like a blade of grass: flexible, surviving storm after storm.  Because the reality is that we are going to be dumped on in life over and over and there is nothing we can do about it.

All we can do is control how we respond to the situations around us.

So be flexible.  Take it each day at a time and remind yourself that you have survived all the ups and downs of life so far… There are many more to come and you will survive those too!

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DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, even though life is hard times and reality can really be crappy, please give me the strength to face each day head on.  Give me grace when there are storms around me, whether small or big.  AMEN. 

“FORGIVENESS” — Lent, Day 16

Forgiveness
We bring out our best, we bring out our worst.
Each day is a celebration and a struggle.
Words pour out that we meant and we don’t–
once out, cannot be forced back in.

Eat those words, we feel in pain.
Regret, despair, angry, betrayed, hurt, sad.
We never begin this way, but time and life,
push us apart and we grow away from each other.

After all the fists made of words
tearing each other down and apart,
we pause, we think, we cry, we wait
and find that love in still there.

What makes us go on?  What draws us closer?
Forgiveness.
Forgiveness is taking each others hands after the hardest times
and walking together in the same direction.

Forgiveness is moving past what we have said in anger,
moving forward in the future.
Forgiveness is choosing to trust, choosing to stay.
Forgiveness is another chance to grow together.

I forgive you as you forgive me.
We forgive each other with the example
of ultimate forgiveness in front of us.

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DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, thank you for showing us forgiveness with the sacrifice you made.  Teach us to forgive each other fully and completely so we can move forward in harmony and love.  AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

“EXILE” — Lent, Day 15

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A recurring theme in the Bible is exile.

Through multiple books of the Bible, we read about the Jews being exiled through many passages of time.  Perhaps the first exile could be attributed to Adam and Eve being exiled from the Garden of Eden.  Later the Jews wander for forty years in the desert after leaving Egypt. Again, later in the Old Testament, they are exiled to Babylon as the political situations fluctuate about them.

Later in the New Testament, Jesus and his family are exiled to Egypt during Jesus’ childhood to avoid the murderous intent of Herod.  Then, as we read through Jesus’ life and ministry, we recognize Jesus’ symbolic exile from Jerusalem to Nazareth.  When he later enters Jerusalem triumphant on a donkey (Palm Sunday), we know he will be hanging on a cross in thirty days.

What does “exile” mean to us?

Webster essentially defines “exile” as a separation from one’s country or native land for political or punitive reasons, but I believe that exile is much more than just a physical separation.   The emotional exile from those we love is much deeper; our spiritual exile from God is indescribable.

The question we must ask ourselves is:  is our spiritual exile self imposed?  Have we chosen to turn away from reflection, meditation and a relationship with God?   Does it matter enough to make changes and to seek God out?

Being in exile means we are in limbo.  As the Israelites wandered through the desert for decades, so we will wander until we find ourselves in a spiritual “home”.

The truth is–we don’t need to live our lives this way.  We can reach out, we can return.

Do we want to live in limbo?  Do we want to wander through life, exiled from what we believe in?    There is no reason to remain this way.  The Israelite’s exile  was partially because old covenant, but we have a new covenant in Christ and that is what Lent and Easter is about!

Grace and forgiveness! There is no need to remain in exile anymore.

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, if I have wandered from you, bring me back to your light and grace.  If I have an unsure of my path, show me your presence and your glory.  Amen.