To Be Seen.

Today I met a man named Gus, Gus had a light in his eyes and blue coat and ratty white hat, he was standing beside the Conoco barely making eye contact with anyone but expectantly watching every car that drove into the parking lot.

He was the guy that people see walking up to them and instantly get defensive, hide that last bit of cash they have in their pockets, avoid eye contact, make a quick shuffle back into their car. They guy in the parking lot that no one truly treats like a guy at all.

And there he was walking up to me as I started to pump my gas, and I was no exception I ducked my head in my car hoping he would pass by. Then I heard,

“Excuse me miss, sorry to bother you.”

So I spun around and met him with full eye contact, finding a man with the tiniest shimmer in his sad eyes, his eyes that said he would rather be doing anything than standing in that parking lot asking me for a few dollars.

He told me that he was staying in a motel, (which are strung every few feet around this part of East Colfax, a motel every block full of strung out junkies, children, dogs, people trying to get on their feet, and even a few hookers. He stated he was staying at one of these motels, with his 8 year old twin daughter, daughters that don’t but could have easily gone to my school.

He told me about his ex wife, and how they are all crammed in the one hotel room, he told me about the hotel with cheaper rooms down the street but that he didnt want to move his daughters again, and through all of this yes.. he asked me for money.

I didn’t give him any, mostly because I didn’t have any. But I did spend more time than the other people around talking to him, I did look him in the eye and learn his name. I did ask about his daughters and talk about the difficulty of getting to school everyday. I did take the time to see him.

And as he walked away I told him, “I am sorry Gus I hope you get the money for the room.” He simply looked over his shoulder and said, “We will.” I laughed and said, “Hopeful.” He simply replied, “Always.”

This man who has so much more to deal with and so much less to deal with it with than I do, this man that walks his daughter to school from the motel and then goes to his part time job that doesn’t pay them enough money to eat and sleep in the motel every night so they have to choose one or the other. This man was Alway’s hopeful.

This reminded me that even if I can’t give everyone money, and I wouldn’t want and can grant them the simple act of being seen. Just to make eye contact and remind them that they are truly human and worthy of my time, we so often seem to step on and over these people, assuming that they are lower than we are for the circumstances in their life.

Gus helped me commit myself to seeing more people not just looking at them but truly seeing them.

❤ Kelsi Rae

A little walk down history lane . . let’s look at my marriage.

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9 days ago this happened!! I married the love of my life in a beautiful ceremony with all of the most important people in our life and no one said one word about the little black girl marrying the white man, but that wasn’t always the case. We as a country just won another monumental history battle for the LGBTQ community by legalizing marriage for their community but in the not so far off past we were fighting for my marriage and for some people this is still the first thing that they see when they look at my new husban and me.

Mr. first pointed this thought out to me on our honeymoon, there was another interracial couple at the resort we were staying at and he pointed them out to me, he stated that ever since we started dating more than 2 years ago he notices these couples more and feels some sort of camaraderie with them, a little head nod in the direction of the guy, a bromance over the love they found with women of different races.

We have been lucky enough to go through our relationship without any real push back or fights over these fact. HIs grandfather when we first started dating famously asked his dad if ” I was just really tan.” And then was equally confused when he met my white mother. But there was no maliciousness to this request just wanting to get his facts straight.

And when a white man walked me down the aisle and gave me away there were murmurs of confusion, questions if I was adopted and where this man came from, but that was it at the end of the day we have had a very easy relationship in this field, and I am grateful for that but that doesn’t mean it was always, or even stil is the case in some places in the world and in this country, so lets look at that.

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50 years ago… Hell 20… probably 10… years ago this card could never have been made.

The United States Supreme Court did not legalize interracial marriage until 1967… 1967 my mother was 7 years old and probably already having first grade crushes on the little black boys in her class but that sort of relationship was illegal.

In 1958 the Loving’s broke this law and wed anyway and were faced with several days of jail time and persecution for falling in love.

When I was given this card for our wedding i was overjoyed I had never seen a card like this, and then I got to thinking why haven’t I?

I can remember a few years ago that my friends went from target to target looking for the glimpse of the first gay and lesbian wedding cards that were being premiered at Target Stores across the nation it was a mini-victory in a fight that they had not won yet.

And yet here I am 50 years after that supposed battle was won for us and I am surprised and beside myself to find an interracial marriage card?

I think that when we are crying love is love, we have to remember how very true that statement is and always has been, people have been falling in love with people they “aren’t supposed to” for ages and every time they have to make this fight, that love is love no matter what

They had to fight between classes, between families, between bloodlines, between races, between genders, and through all of this they cry love is love. This cry is not political or aggressive it is simply a cry to let us love one another.

The same cry we hear over and over again through Jesus’ preachings,

” Love one another as I have loved you. ” No rules, regulations or stimulations. Let us love and be loved.

My walk down history lane reminded me how close I was in history to not being able to marry the love of my life because of the color of my skin, the last law again interracial marriage was taken off of the books in Alabama in 2000!! 2000 I was 9 years old and definitely had a crush or two on a white boy by then.

How is it that in my life time we are still crying Love is Love and begging people to hear. . . when we look back on history how far back was it when you are your love could not have been married? Separated by oceans, languages, classes, religions, country, family, race, gender, whatever else could be used to separate you… if we look back far enough we all had a time when we would have had to shout love is love. . ..

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❤ Kelsi Rae

A step inside a Libyan Engagement . . .

Tonight I attended my first engagement party ever.. and it was a Islamic engagement party, there were five of us that had been invited to our friend from Uni’s party. Over the course of this year I had become comfortable asking her questions that may offend others, I asked about the different culture practices, how she felt about Libya, what her wedding (a hypothetical at that point) would be like, the practices of hijab wearing and so on. So when she invited us to her engagement party, we jumped right in to asking questions.

Will there be men there? What should we wear? How will the engagement work?

Now since this was an arranged marriage we asked all sorts of things about that practice as well we learned as much about the practice as we could.

But when I entered this room it was still a shock, some of the most gorgeous women were dressed to the nines a roll away cart filled with Hijab’s and coats sat next to the door,a threshold where you no longer had to be restricted or worry about the happenings of the other gender.

These women had the most beautiful hair of all cuts, colors and styles they had curled it, straightened it, in updo’s. women I otherwise would have spent the night wondering about their hair now moved freely with gorgeous tresses on every head. These women were dressed in full make-up and gorgeous dresses, dressed up for each other, and themselves because truly that is who women have to dress up for everyday as it is. . .

I was lucky enough to sit at the table with the grooms family, Libyans via London, and the nicest women I have been in quite some time. They shared there customs with me, they told me what every piece of food I had on my plate was and invited me to London to relive this experience all over again in December.

While I am sure American’s have these same interactions at weddings, and make new life long friends there was something about this particular experience that was different, I don’t know if it was the fact that it was all women, and therefore no need to compete for the attention of the men in the room, or if it is a cultural difference that somehow in our capitalist, self preservation, separation  of Church and State society that we have lost. Something about this culture welcomed me in.

We ate, we talked, we laughed and enjoyed the celebration of our good friend, and new sisters engagement,  during the middle of dinner about 8 oclock, some women began to leave the various dining tables and make their way to the hijab holder, grab their beautiful over coats and hi jabs and make their way to the back of the room, almost out of sight but not quite. At first the 5 of us that were not Islamic were quite confused and then just as silently these women began praying, one of their 5 daily prayers, in groups of 2 or 3 women made their way back to complete this ritual. There was no interruption of the party even though the party of 98% women who partake in this act of Faith, they allowed the party to go on and each took part in their faith in their own way.

There is something beautiful about that, that these women did not feel the need to flaunt their faith or make their faith more important or better than anyone else’s this was a conversation between them and Allah and they were the only ones that needed to be involved. I think that this type of relationship with your God is a sign of true faith in whichever religion you are practicing.

Then came the dancing, a moment  when 30 women crowded on the dance floor to show off their moves to each other, there was traditional Arabic music and dancing, there was wonderful booty shaking that I think I could master with more practice, there was laughter and trilling that I could not get my tongue to manifest. Then in the middle of it, the music changes to . . . Trap Queen. and every one of these faithful women jumped onto the dance floor, began dancing away and singing every word!

In that moment I looked around, made eye contact with my two friends that were there with me and just thought, ” I love this moment.” ” I have never been more happy to have a new cultural experience than I am right now.

We spent the night celebrating, no competition, no petty drama, just women enjoying the moment in the life of our friend and each other.

And as I left I gave each of my new friends two kisses on each cheek, as four is traditional in Libya, as I learned and said goodbye and I hope to see them in December.

So how can we create these moments, these times when we are all so welcomed into a new cultural accepted as ignorant and unknowing but taught the ways and loved for our attempts at culture? When is there a space in our everyday life that we can invite someone into our culture and take the time to step into theirs? When we are comfortable enough to make the effort with no judgement no reservations?

I hope that I am able to find more times to step into other cultures to learn more about Libya and Islamic culture and to welcome them into mine.

❤ Kelsi Rae

The Runners Bargain

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One weeks difference! A week ago 2 miles was the farthest I had run since high school, and one week later I ran almost a full mile more!
One weeks difference! A week ago 2 miles was the farthest I had run since high school, and one week later I ran almost a full mile more!

Yesterday Mr. said to me, you are a runner now. While I don’t know that this is true I have been running. We moved two blocks from one of the nicest parks in Denver, Wash Park and I was determined to become a Park Runner, not just a one or two day a week runner, no a 4 or 5 day a week runner. So today I completed my 5th run in the park. I did 4 last week and then today I did my 5th and first one of this week.

When I started running I could barely run three minutes on a treadmill and last Monday I completed both my longest and fastest run yet, I ran 2 miles in around 25 minutes. Ok a 12 minute mile may not seem like much but it was everything to me, and it still feels good, I don’t have goals to become a fast runner, just a runner someone who can sustain running for a prolonged period of time.

I am getting there, and I have found that running is a mental bargain, every half a mile or so when I start to feel like my lungs are giving out or my legs are going to collapse I look forward to the next tree, bend in the trail, stoplight or any marker I can make in my mind and tell myself, just keep going till you get there, and if I can make it there it is another bargain to keep going just a little farther.

I have found that as long as I keep bargaining I can keep going, and then when I do need to walk for just a little while, I can bargain my way into running just a little more. I am not rewarding myself with anything except more running, but that running is starting to feel good.

Hell I still feel like I am dying but it is a joy, I am happy that my body keeps going, that when I see someone else running on the “Runners highway” that is Wash Park I feel like I am part of their club.

So what can you bargain yourself into? What ways can you make your life better by simply saying, I can go a little farther… how can we find bargains in everyday life that will allow us to make the progress we need in order to be the best we can be.

❤ Kelsi Rae

Becoming Ride or Die For My Students

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When I began my residency, during the summer courses we spoke for hours about how to form relationships with students of all backgrounds and the importance of developing these relationships from the beginning of the school year. Everyday, I left partly confused how could you not form relationships with these students? How could someone enter into a classroom and not leave changed, molded a little bit by each and every student that they work with? I later have come to realize it is possible for some, but not for myself and for this reason my entire philosophy of teaching stems from this idea. That each student in my classroom will leave changed by the relationships and culture I foster and that those connections will push them academically and socially long after I am their teacher.

In one of my graduate courses this year we were introduced to Jeff Duncan-Andrade and the term, Rida’s while I had heard this term many times before in music and popular culture I had never heard it in relation to a teacher- student relationship. Duncan-Andrade describes the relationship like this,

“They risk deep emotional involvement with the majority of their students and they are sometimes hurt because of those investments. The depth of their relationships with students allows them to challenge students and get notable achievement and effort.” (Duncan-Andrade, 2007)

This deep emotional involvement is something I want to wear on my sleeve; I want my students to know that I am willing to take a risk for them, so that they will be willing to take academic and social risks for me.

This year I have been fortunate enough to make a deep connection with two of the schools most challenging students. These students are too young to have a predetermined path in life, they should understand that people care about them and want them to succeed, however for these students that was not the case. They believed that they were the “bad” kids and they were destined to be arrested or worse. By fourth grade one student understood the inequities of the world that I am still uncovering for myself. Through bonds I took months to build and develop with these students, they not only knew that they could come to me but that I would fight for them when needed and tell them the truth when necessary. I can remember on many occasions telling a crying student in the hallway, “Who is this hurting right now?” and walking them back to class, because that action was not taking away from their teacher but it was hurting them as a person. When a student knows that you care about them, I believe you can be more honest with them, and instead of shutting down the student will be more receptive to these requests. They will take an emotional risk for you because of the investment you are making in them; students will not take a risk for no reason.

I don’t want to form relationship because that is what you are supposed to do in order to be a successful teacher I want these relationships because that is how we grow. As humans we make connections to one another that push us to be better, or hold us back, we cannot live in a solitary existence no matter what sort of relationships you make they will shape you as a person. I want my students to come into my classroom and form the type of connections that push them to grow. As we grow together through the year these relationships will be something that form me as a teacher as well as forming the people my students will become. As they grow up they will become people who form this type of relationship with others because I formed one with them.

In order for the bonds I build in my classroom to continue to make a difference after the year is over, students have to learn to create these relationships with each other as well. The friendships that students build with each other in my class will cross cultures, languages, disabilities and more to create a community where each student feels valued and supported. Through creating these friendships between each of my students, and hopefully my students and other students throughout the school and the city, my sphere of influence will grow exponentially. Many of my students have more than one factor, working “against” them when it comes to forming lasting relationships, often they are from different backgrounds than their peers and have one or more disabilities that may cause them to look or act differently. In order to become truly an agent of change in the district I want to begin to break these barriers down and show that though some people may need something different, that if we all work towards our goal each individual can succeed. This year I was able to work with the Affective Needs classroom, often these students were talked about by adults and teachers as “those kids” and they were rarely included in school or classroom activities. In the spring we fought to create a dance number and perform it twice in front of the entire school at the talent show. The students were able to hear the cheers from the crowd and give high fives after and to just be kids, as opposed to “those kids.” This small step allowed a few barriers to be broken down with their peers they began to form relationships based on shared interests rather than animosity based on the differences. People will never become blind to the different colors, cultures and disabilities my students have but by creating relationships with them these things can be seen for the value and not the differences they represent. As students grow they will become the people that set the standard for these connections, they will be able to dictate the type of bonds that are made with people of varying backgrounds. I can only control what is in my arena to control and influence but the more students I come in contact with the more I can create change, long after they have forgotten the rules for lattice multiplication.

In order for my students to be able to make the most impact possible I need to be able to push them academically as well. The achievement gap between students with disabilities and those without continues to be staggering not just in our district but also across the country. In order for my students to become my extra arms to influence the world I have to show them the value of their education as well. The idea of rigor has been something I have struggled with throughout my residency year. I wanted to push my students to make connections, to learn more and understand the intricacies of each text genre that we studied, to be able to put their words into writing but I was unclear of how to make this process rigorous for them. During my final lead teaching experience I decided to implement a writing block during our group sessions, each week the students completed a constructed response question and throughout the week they would reflect on their writing, edit it and ultimately assign a grade to their writing. At first students would give themselves a perfect score even after numerous conversations we had about things that could be improved in their piece of writing. Through open conversations and one on one meetings with each student by the third week they were able to truly become critical of their writing and think about what they wanted to change in the future. This task had become rigorous in thought because the student was not only thinking of completing a task at hand but looking to the future and how this task could help them as they continued to grow as writers. In one of my coaching conversations I received feedback that students were not afraid to have these one on one meeting about their writing with me even if it wasn’t their best work, and that students were comfortable having a differing opinion as me when it came to assigning a final grade to their writing. When a student in 4th grade can come to a teacher with a well developed argument regarding a grade they are becoming prepared to have difficult, professional conversations throughout their life. They will not only have to argue for grades, but jobs and other advances their entire lifetime, and these skills will last long after they have forgotten what the R in the RACE strategy stands for.

As I look both behind me through my residency year and into the future of what I will become as a teacher, one thing is clear I want the skills and connections my students make in my classroom to outlast the small academic victories they have. These skills will push their academics they will continue to grow and to close the achievement gap when they discover these things about themselves. These risks will be rewarded with grit, empathy, resilience, optimism and more, the life skills of a successful person and will lead to academic success as well. I want to create well-rounded students and students who want to challenge the status-quo. To say it is not always right simply because it is the way it has always been done. Like in many cases Maya Angelou said it best, “ People will forget what you said, will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want to make my students feel that they are the agents of change; they can create a difference in the world if they set their minds to it. And I will do that by showing my students that someone truly cares for and believes in them at school, that when they come to school someone is happy to see them. I will roll up my sleeves and get to work being a Rida for my students.

Let’s build a bench…err Marriage?

So a big thing happened this weekend, Mr. and I moved in together! This is the first time I have ever lived with a boy, including family members so I am interested to see the things how the stereotypes live up, so far I would have to say living with a boy is AMAZING. But I am also only 4 days in.

So what does this bench have to do with my marriage?

Well we built it.. no kit, not precut pieces of wood, nope just a youtube video and a trip to home depot later and we were making a bench. This took both of our strengths and some I don’t think we knew we had in order to accomplish it.

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Here I am at home depot, bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to construct our very own bench, something that will hopefully last 30 years so we can pass it down to our children, as his parent just did with a picnic table Mr.’s Dad built 30 years ago.

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Did I mention we decided to build this bench on the day it snowed in May? No? Oh well here I am bundled up in our garage waiting for the snow to melt as we begin sawing.

But we get underway constructing this bench and just like I imagine we will in marriage, we started to hit some bumps, my bright eyed and bushy tailed turned into curse words and we were soon doubting if we could put this bench together at all. It started when we realized we didn’t charge the drill, and were left screwing most of the screws in by hand, do you know how many screws it takes to put a bench together? Way too many to screw them in by hand I tell you that.

I started to think that this was Ben’s fault and that it was his drill so he should have been responsible for the charge of the battery and as my wrist became more and more sore, I had two choices to continue blaming mr. and become resentful, or realize that this is something we are in together, realize we both will make mistakes and that as a team we will work through them, so on I went screwing in screw after screw by hand. ( And to be fair, he was also participating in this, it wasn’t like I was left with a screwdriver on an abandoned island or anything)

And I am sure he was thinking that I could be helping more, or stop nagging him about the directions, I am sure I screwed a screw in wrong, or measured the pieces of wood too small ( ok  I know I did that one once) And he could have taken those things and created a list, an arbitrary checklist of the ways I was failing him and allowed that running record to eat away at his faith in me. in us. But he didn’t every time no matter how frustrated he was he would look at me, smile, say “you are doing great babe”, and move on… EVERY time.

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And then we screwed the legs together wrong, leaving us with what would have been a seatless bench, not very effective right? So unscrew the pieces, and start again, this time following the directions. This is where we could dip deep down into those gender stereotypes pull out the one that says men don’t follow directions put a big ole check mark on it and slip it back into our pocket of low blows to use next time. But if we are going to create a marriage that is built to last, what we really need to be doing is digging into that pocket of stereotypes and low blows and throwing them in that brand new recycling bin we just got and let someone else compost those. Because holding on to these things just creates an environment where both Mr. and myself could be digging deeper and deeper at each other until one of us breaks.

Now 50 years into this bench building marriage we will have so many of these things we could be throwing at each other that there is no way to survive all of those bad experiences, but if instead we choose to recycle that crap, chalk it up to a mistake we both made and move on, then in 2,5 or 50 years we won’t be counting all the ways our spouse has messed up over the years right?

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It was starting to look like a marriage…. I mean bench, the pieces were all where they needed to be, it had legs it could stand on and a sturdy seat two people could sit on. But there was something missing, just like our marriage which has 79 days until it becomes official ,our bench was missing some crucial pieces to it’s structure. But this is where it really got tricky, the video said to put the back at a slight angle so that it would be more comfortable to sit on. The guy used a fancy tool to measure and then drill sideways through the posts in order to accomplish this with ease. However here we were with our dead drills, no fancy tool and only the few screws that we had purchased which were now to short for this job. How were we going to accomplish it?

And then Mr. had an idea, he said why don’t we use extra wood, create a back for the ends and use that to nail into, that would cut down on the amount of screws we need and allow us to create the comforting angle we had heard about in the video.

There you have it folks I am marrying a genius this is where I got to celebrate with him, think about how I never would have thought of that on my own and rejoice in his accomplishments, I could do this without fault because I had already thrown my earlier reservations in the recycling with our bench building mistakes.

So that is what we did, and it worked!

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And there it was our beautiful bench, it is still not perfect all the pieces don’t exactly line up, the wood is not sanded or painted to perfection, the back angle isn’t exactly even or at  the magic comfort angle that was prescribed, but let me tell you what…it is sturdy,

And in 30 years when our marriage has seen the test of time,  I hope we will look at this bench think of all the things we could have held onto over the years, all of the little mistakes that could have torn us apart but instead made us a better team and think it all started with this bench.

❤ Kelsi Rae

When God Moves you

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We have this time at House Church where we all go around the circle and share what God is doing in your life at the moment. I have always resisted this piece of the time together, why does it have to be what God is doing in my life, when did my free will and decision making go out the window and I become a puppet, this is not the kind of God I believed in.

I always wondered if maybe God had just never asked or pushed me to do anything is maybe I was resistant to this piece of time because God had thrown me aside long ago, before I had even come to know him and decided I wasn’t worth talking to, just let her make her own decisions, she values her free will so much let her see where that gets her. I found myself envying the people who could come with this profound things that God was calling them to do, and even the non-profound ones, the everyday ordinary askings of God, because that meant that they were feeling something that I was not in on. I did not have the key to this piece of God. Or maybe I had been fooling myself for the last year and a half maybe this faith that I had concocted was just a facade and this is why I had never heard from God, because I truly didn’t believe in him

So when this time came on Wednesday I thought for a minute and I felt something! I mean I really felt that there was something I should share.

In the last month or so I have had the feeling, aching, gnawing feeling that I need to stand up, I need to inject myself into the conversation about Race and compassion.  I cannot stand in neutral and not disturb people so that I don’t make waves.

But now how do I do this? What way can I demonstrate grace and love in this journey.

And then something amazing happened. after I shared the way that God was moving in my life, two other people in my house church shared the revelation that they have been feeling this same calling each with variations rooted in their own lives but with this same racial base this same love of many cultures and the desire to spread this and get involved in the changes occurring in our city. There have been twice as many gang related killings in the Near North East corner of Denver in the last 5 months than all of 2014, we discussed the boxing in syndrome that is happening in this corner of Denver pushing groups together as “white ladies with strollers” take over more and more of the historically Black neighborhood.

I think this is what God looks like, finding ways to make multiple people have that same gut wrenching feeling that they a new direction in their life. This is how God makes his presence known, maybe it isn’t this supernatural voice that lets you know that you are supposed to do this and not do that you are supposed to make whatever it is a part of your life in a real way.And then giving you a sign, something that pushes that deeper, like the shared feeling with others in a common place. That movement of an entire House Church towards social justice.

There is no reason that the three of us, from vary different ages, walks of life, and ethnicities to all be pushed towards this calling in Denver Colorado, in this one room on a Wednesday night, but we are, we are all feeling this ache to help the rest of the world, to bring other people into this space and that must be God.

This is what happens when God moves you, it is not a loud speaker but a whisper.

❤ Kelsi Rae

My Maundy Thursday

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So let’s just being by saying that before two days ago I had never heard of Maundy Thursday, ok thats not true I heard about it when we started going to Bloom last year but I heard foot washing and I was out.

I almost did the same thing this year, I thought I don’t know what the point of this service is and I really don’t want someone to wash my feet, but then I somehow ended up getting in the car and heading to church at 7pm on a Thursday for a mystery service on the Jewish Passover. Three of us were in the car on the way, counting the days till the Resurrection, going well, no Jesus would have still been alive, wait when was the last supper, he was crucified on Good Friday right, well this must be the last supper.. .yes that must be why we are having soup. ( Yes we had to do the math to figure out the importance of Maundy Thursday, don’t shun us from all of Christianity)

So now that we sort of kind of understood what we were going to we headed into church, down the stairs into our basement space that always feels just a little bit melancholy as you descend the stairs and entered into a room full of community and the wonderful smell of soup, ok maybe I can handle this.

We moved smoothly through the worship and soup portion of the evening, at this point I was thinking we could have Maundy Thursday every week but as Andrew ( our pastor) stood up to begin speaking I knew we were moving into the uncomfortable space, the space where Jesus knowing he was about to be betrayed moving towards his death and resurrection accepted the failings of his disciples and moved into the light into Good Friday to save us all.

But before he could do this he performed two great acts of love for his disciples he broke the bread, and poured out the wine, and he washed their feet, he knelt before them and took on the stature of a servant in order to wash their feet.

So why does this simple act feel like I just walked into the wall, like I cannot wrap my mind around the sacrament associated with this act. So I sat there listening to Andrew speak thinking, you cannot force me to do this. But then he started to speak about why this is so awkward for us, what is happening when someone, often someone that we are not intimately close to washes a part of our body that we often consider ultimately dirty.

I heard him say when Jesus washed their feet he was completely accepting the brokenness of the humans around him, he understood their betrayal and accepted it, and as he did this he gave the new commandment, the commandment of Love. And that in this moment thousands of years after his death, how is that love touching the world?  Will our outpouring of love touch the world? In what ways do we accept the brokenness of the world around us and pour love into it, I hope that I can find the brokenness and instead of turning a blind eye or searching for “an eye for an eye” I can pour love into the places that need it the most.

And if this is what my church is showing me by washing my feet, that they see my brokenness and are going to pour their love into me through this act then if i am going to be a woman that believes in this commandment of love than how can I refuse this, so I stood up and allowed a man I have only seen from the back of the church seat to place his hands on my feet and wash them clean of the despair and brokenness that I try to hide from the light.

In that moment I looked up and I could see the wonderful man I will soon call my husband also getting his feet washed across the way and I felt a wholeness a sense of belonging and community that is often missing from church for me, where I feel alone and ignorant in the ways of the church, but on this night we were all one community partaking in soup, laughter, love and the semblance of a last supper filled with Paleo friendly chili, and gluten free, dairy free, organic, flavorful spinach and kale soup

I stood from the wash station and stood in a line of barefoot 20 somethings that attend Bloom, dressed in plaid shirts, covered in beards, dreads and as many hipsters glasses as we could find where we were all just searching for something, something we cannot find at the many craft breweries we frequent before church, something that has drawn us all here to this melancholy basement  filled with dozens of tea light candles, and a small table filled with boxed wine and gluten free bread ( have I said we are mostly 20 something hipsters yet?) Here we are drawn to this table, to the love of a man that would have knelt before us, and washed our feet before he poured himself out for us in the greatest act of love.

How can I pour myself out, how can ensure that my love touches the world, in what ways can I heal someones brokenness, how can I wash your feet?

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❤ Kelsi Rae

The Joy of Spring Break, teacher style

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Remember that feeling the last day of school before a break, whether it was Christmas break, spring break, Summer break, or even just a long weekend.. . the anticipation of not learning for an entire week, for some students it means a week of relaxation and video games at home, maybe you are at a day care for the week, and yet for other students it means a week of being home a lone and maybe not eating consistently because normally you eat two meals at school 5 days a week.

This has been the biggest shift that as a teacher instead of a student, my students are stressed out by spring break, several have begged to stay here with me at school, ( because clearly I stay at school all week, you know teachers do live in their classrooms), they have asked to come home with me for the week, and one student asked my teammate if he could crawl in her suitcase and head to Chicago with her.

Now the spring break I remember meant either being at my friends house most of the day or remaining quite as a mouse while I often played games by myself, I grew up with a single mother and she worked nights so day times were quite in our house while she slept. but I was always excited about breaks, I always knew I would have more than enough food to snack on endlessly I knew that my mom would always be happy to see me when I woke up, I cannot imagine the stress that my students feel around spring break. To be so young and have to worry about such large things breaks my heart, If I could load you up with a suitcase full of food for the week I would!!

Now back to that anticipation and excitement you used to feel around a break from school, now imagine that now, imagine you were getting a week long break from work built into your year, no vacation days used no consequences  for not showing up, just a week where the entire company took a break, that feeling is infinetly better than the feeling as a child.

This year with grad school and teaching I was not sure I was going to make it to Spring Break, this week has been a major trial to get through, the students are in rare form, either because they are stressed about the break or excited, or a mixture of the two.

But here i am just counting down the hours until I don’t have to teach another thing for 9 days, no more instruction of the LEAP indicators, no more grading papers, I get to relax and then it is the last big push till summer which is full of testing, testing and more testing, so really your final push for instruction is over and now we have to get to Summer, just get to summer!

Being a “good” Christian. . . a work in progress.

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If I had known it was as simple as following a wiki- how to I would have had this mastered this years ago!

Learn how to be a good Christian in only a few simple steps here http://www.wikihow.com/Live-a-Good-Christian-Life

Or follow my struggle below. . .

I have only been going to church for maybe two years total, there was a six month period I attended in college and then when I moved to Denver I stopped until I found Bloom.

I have been going to Bloom Denver for a little over a year consistently now, and last January Ben and I dove head first into this whole, church member thing. We started volunteering on Sundays to set up or tear down the gathering space.( Our church meets in the basement of another church so we have to set up and tear down some aspects of our gathering every week.) We joined a house church ( what would be a small group or bible study at other churches) And became full fledged members of the church as some might say. We love our house church and attend every week to gather and share with those 10 people in someones home. We have been studying the book of Luke passage by passage, not skipping not a one! It has been some of the most faithful and thoughtful conversations I have ever had.

This has really been a time when I have began to open up to spirituality.. . But I keep coming back to what does that need to look like? We sometimes fall into “stereotypical” church conversations that just rub me wrong, things like

” Well my friend starting dating a non-christian guy and I just don’t know if I can condone that, she is just setting herself up for heartbreak.”

And

” I made a new friend and I just feel like it is my duty to show her Jesus, it is our duty as Christians to convert people to ensure they are saved.”

Well I don’t believe either of these things  so what am I not a good Christian? I actually disagree with these statements and they make me physically upset when i hear them, causing me to shut down within the conversation. So how do I merge  this. ..

What does being a good Christian mean?

We had a State of the Parish meeting at Bloom the other night, they talked about how the work that we do is God’s work. Whether you are a teacher, a nurse, a truck driver, a barista etc. whatever you do the job of the church is to make you a better outward person, do put the best you out there. Now I do not believe that this means putting our Christianity in the worlds face and saying Hey I am a better(insert profession here) because I love God. But simply being a better (insert profession here) you are showing the worlds God’s love.

I also do not believe that it is our duty as Christians to convert everyone, I am probably in the minority that believes we all believe in the same God, we just give him/her different names, All of those names praise him, and glorify him. We cannot let the people who manipulate his love dictate how we view the people who both call him by the name we know and by other names. It is not our job to tell people what to believe or what name to call God.

It is our job to love them. It is our job to look outside of the church, to take the love and power we gain from our relationship with God and the Church and turn that into love for the people around us.

I believe that this means taking my sphere of influence, my classroom, my family, my friends, my school and making a difference there if I love those people and pour all of God’s love into them through me, it does not matter what name I give it. That is how I demonstrate that I am a “good” Christian.

It does not come with a hand book, and a step by step how too. it certainly does not come from a wii-how- to. . there is no manual. there is not a single way to do it there is no right or wrong. There is a feeling!

No matter what you do, love it, do it well and pour that love into other people.

And if you are in the Denver area looking for a place that will support you in this journey, come check us out, we meet at Hope Community Church at 4 and 6 pm on Sundays. You can find us here on the web http://www.bloomchurchdenver.com/  I would love to see you all there!

❤ Kelsi Rae