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These are my thoughts, yo.

Filtering by Tag: grace

All Saints Day

jasmine banks

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Do you know about All Saint Day? Do you believe in heaven? Do you believe God wipes away every tear from every eye?Apocalyptic salvation and such.

I don't know what I believe about all that. I don't know what I believe about heaven. I hope there is one... But mainly I try to be present. I try to remember that grace and redemption are present powers we all have.

I know living Saints: those who struggle and suffer and still love, forgive, and move forward. Though she would roll her eyes reading this and scoff and argue, one of my Saints has been Kim Tate.

I met Kim when I was in a wheel chair. I was recovering from a major surgery on my right ovary. Thirteen years old with staples and the voices of doctors ringing in my head, " you will likely not have children." My abdomen was opened up and cysts and a tumor were removed. I sat in a wheelchair outside of the building where my youth group met for Wednesday night worship. Kim and I still laugh about that night, because she thought I was paralyzed when she saw me. Paralysis isn't funny, usually, but for some reason we both giggle. Dark humor, I guess? That was the first night I met Kim. Shortly after that evening she adopted me, for some reason. We connected. She listened to me, trusted me, and believed in me. Through junior high and high school Kim guided me.

Our lives have delicately woven in and out of each other. Our stories have been narratives of growth, suffering, and the realization of the utter grace that surrounds both our lives.

One day, in high school, I woke up from yet another nightmare about the sexual abuse I'd experienced as a child. I was covered in sweat and my heart raced. Another night of fighting off aggressors and watching as my small body was hurt, over and over again. In my dream I'd float above the younger version of myself. I would watch over and over as I was abused. In my dream I always tried to fight, but I could never win and no one ever came to save me. I sat up on my futon shaking and breathing and tired. Could I keep doing this, these nightmares? I couldn't. I told my mother about my abuse... her response was not favorable. I hated my mother for a long time for lack of response to the abuse I received as a child. I hate her and I suffered silently. The suffering worsened after the death of my best friend's mother. I worked on Joan the day I saw her lifeless on the couch. I executed each step to CPR the way I was taught in my babysitting courses. Paige, my best friend at the time, came to my house frighten: "my mom won't wake up." I left her at my home and sprinted toward her house up the hill. I called 911, I did rounds of CPR, but Joan was dead. Shortly after her death the nightmares started to worsen. It is clear, now, that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had PTSD like the soldiers from Vietnam.

Oh, the things I'd seen on the battle field. The battle field, though, was my life.

That Wednesday morning I woke up and wrote the letter that many others have written before me. I said my goodbye. I said I love you. I said, " I can't do this anymore..." I made my plans to take my life. I had the pills. I went to school and paced myself through another day. I'd stare off into space, not hearing the teacher lecture, and not feeling my body. Therapists and psychologists call it "disassociation". I had no one around me to understand what was happening, and I didn't know what was happening either. I just knew I couldn't do another day of pretending and struggling and fighting to be alive and tortured.  That evening I went to church because I wanted to sing one last time. Singing was something that held me together. I would miss singing.  I sobbed as I lead worship and looked at the faces of my friends. I said a silent goodbye to each of them in my head.  When church was over, I packed up my things and headed toward my car. Kim stopped me and hugged me with the deep embrace she is known for. She put both of her hands firmly on my shoulders and looked in my eyes. I could feel her oval acrylic nails pressed into my shoulder. I stared at her hair slicked back and pulled into a ponytail. She had weave wrapped around her bun to add volume to her hairstyle. I avoided eye contact as much as I could. "You know how much you are loved, Jasmine" she questioned me. She corrected, "You know how much I love you, don't you Jasmine?" I faked a smile and responded, "Yes, thank you." I couldn't look up at this point. If I did I felt all at once I would melt and she would know what I planned to do. I don't know if she sensed the disbelief in my voice, but she doubled down: "Jasmine, The Lord has amazing things planned for you. He really does. I KNOW he does. You are so young and you are already changing the lives of people around you, you've changed my life... and I am so grateful for you." I teared up. Kim smiled at me and continued, "I love you. YOU need to know that you can come to me if you need anything, anything ever." I nodded and hugged her back.

I got in my car and drove home. The 15 minute drive felt like mere seconds. I parked my car at the lake across from my neighborhood. I took the letter out of my bag and read it and cried. I sat at the edge of the grass by the water and emptied the pills into the water. I placed the letter on the surface of the water and watched as the water slowly seeped through the paper. The dark bottom of the lake claimed the letter, and with it my intention to kill myself.

It wasn't until I left for college that I received my diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a diagnosis I am still receiving care for.  I didn't take my life that night, or the three other nights I've planned to kill myself. Truth be told, there are other ways I try to kill myself. We all do, really... don't we.

Kim has been my Saint. In some of my darkest moments I listen to her words echo in my heart. When the suffering rings too loud, she is just a call away. When I think about those who die and wonder about passing into a heaven after this life, I think about Kim. She is proof of heaven. How could there not be a second life for hearts like hers? Saints are the people who save us over and over again and never even know it.

Standing in the Way of Equality Won't Increase Righteousness

jasmine banks

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Today is the day that the highest court in the land made a move toward further equality.  Our status updates are full of celebration. I put on my Obama "I DO support marriage equality" shirt on today. A high risk move in my town. I get the side eye more than I'd like when struttin' in my equality and Obama gear. You don't get to freely discriminate against "the gays" anymore, that should be good news... RIGHT?!

It should... but amongst the celebration my Facebook newsfeed has begun to fill up with updates  also declaring,

"Sin is winning." <- According to theology, doesn't sin win on a regular basis, y'all?

"God is unhappy with history today" <- Did He/She tell you? Could I also speak to God? Do you have a cell phone number I could borrow?

"My heart is sad that we aren't standing for Godly Marriage in this contry [sic]" <- WAS God married, y'all? What is Godly marriage?

 

I don't want to get mired in the mud of this debate. I wish it weren't even a debate, truthfully.

But

When you don't speak your silence provides consent to those who ARE speaking.

So I have to speak.

I attend a University known for its Christian affiliation. I love and hate it. I was a youth group kid. My faith in God has been an integral part of my identity since I was 8, when I made an unprompted confession of faith. As I've evolved my child-like, and sometimes blind, faith in religious institutions evolved. The more life I experienced, the more I felt the sense of certainty I once internalized melt away. The more I learned the less I knew.  I can proof text like the rest of them. I am acquainted with the greek origins of words. I even, once, memorized the entire book of James. I wanted to commit it to memory because I struggled so much with the content and context of the book. When my life was dedicated to the church was deeply committed.

The more I learned the less I knew. Shouldn't it be this way in most areas of life? As we dive into the complexity of the world shouldn't we find ourselves rendered small, confused, and outnumbered by mystery? Christians want to be certain of too much. WE want to be certain of too much. I think we fear admitting our powerlessness in this world. The older I get the more I intuitively begin to belief that God is found in doubt. We are a people that crave order, structure, and stability. If what we know is turned on its head we struggle. We want an absolute yes or no. Sometimes or maybe were always answers that bothered me and I recognize that The Church wrestles with the same weakness.

I am on the fence concerning so many maxims associated with being an Evangelical Christian. So much so, that I've stop identifying as one. The church makes me angry.

Still I have to believe that grace, love, and redemption win.

If none of the words on this page settle in with you, please hear these:

In the matter of same sex marriage equality: You will not increase righteousness by limiting another person's right to choose to enter into a marriage that you do not consider holy. Rather you decrease righteousness in this world by creating inequality of power through social oppression: this is something, I've come to believe, that God is very against. Marriages with same sex partnerships will redeem and distort the world, just as heterosexual marriages continue to redeem and distort the world. God affords free will to you and welcomes you as you are. I think "Godly marriage" might mean affording the same level of power to exercise free will to others.