Book Review: Future Home of the Living God

Louise Erdrich pic 2

I recently read “Future Home of the Living God” by Louise Erdrich with a group of friends who formed a book club.

**Spoiler Alerts! Only read if you are finished reading this book, or don’t mind 😛

After putting this novel down my first thought was “WTF!?” I had been rooting for Cedar, the protagonist in this novel, so hard. It seemed like the book ended with her being totally defeated and crushed by the repressive regime that claims to be “Christian” was an unnecessary ending. I felt betrayed by the author and this book for about an hour after reading. Seriously, I was pissed.

However, when I took a step back and didn’t focus in on every single detail or emotionally grueling turn Erdrich took us on, I was able to see the beauty and purpose behind her novel. By drawing us so closely in with the protagonist Cedar, the father of her child Phil, as well as her adopted and Native family, she allows us to glimpse into a world and feel, as close as we possibly could, the weight of reality in a repressive regime designed to control life from beginning to end. We begin to see how corrupted power, specifically of the very source that brings us life, can have varying and peculiar effects on everyone–both those in control and those being repressed.

The brilliance of this novel is perhaps not that it provides answers to pressing global issues we are facing in our world today, but that it poses so many questions: Does climate change, or any social change for that matter, truly mean the end of the world (i.e. “apocalypse”), or can a new way of life be embraced and found in the chaos? Does the government have a right to control new life, or do those decisions belong to women alone? Finally, what role does religion, specifically Christianity, play in all of this?

It is women who bear, hold and bring new life. They bring to life the soul of the world. This is what makes it so overwhelmingly ironic that somehow, we fear this part of our very existence as humans; we try relentlessly to control the very source that birthed us to life.  No force, not even the end of the world, can take away the fierce strength and love of a mother for her child. Despite the most insurmountable of odds, Cedar gives birth, survives and still maintains hope for a day filled with wonder and magic of a new life for herself and those whom she loves, especially her beloved son.

Everyone has a person that suffers greatly for their sake. This imagery of a God of the suffering, one who is with the most persecuted, powerless or despised struck me throughout this novel. Cedar’s adopted mother, Phil, Eddy, her biological grandmother and her Native family all have sacrificed something great for her.  As Cedar writes to her subscribers of the Catholic magazine she is the Editor of in her last issue of Zeal“Someone in this world will always be suffering on your behalf.  If it comes your time to suffer, just remember. Someone suffered for you. That is what taking on a cloak of human flesh is all about, the willingness to hurt for another human being”.

There is no way to escape suffering. And, there comes a time for all of us to suffer unthinkably for those we love.

Newness can feel like chaos. And, as humans, chaos usually freaks most of us out a whole lot.  But life is chaos, whether it be our inability to control super storms like Hurricane Harvey and the change in our climates that refuses to be ignored, life on this planet is a roller-coaster ride. What may be “apocalyptic” for some is not the end of the world for others.

Take Eddy and his entire character, for example. Near the end of the novel when it seems the entire (white-controlled) society is falling apart and grasping desperately to maintain control, Eddy and those on the reservation are teeming with excitement about the new possibilities that are being presented to their people because the old order of things is dying. Eddy and his people, the Ojibwe, are able to reclaim some of the land that was taken away from them, land that grandmothers had not gotten close to since their childhood and veterans fought for but couldn’t benefit from. Even disorder of the most extreme kind can bring new life.

Lastly, we learn in this novel how futile it is to try to control or contain life. Even the most intensely devised political actions to control in the name of “Christ” and under the guise of “righteous order” could not tame women from bringing new life. As I read this, I realized that women are everything to the future of our world:  we determine the physical, spiritual and political health of our planet. The future home of the living god is desolate, detained, depressed and persecuted, yet undeniably (and maybe outrageously so) hopeful. Life will not be denied new life. The woman’s song of new life continues on no matter how repressed or silenced it becomes.

It’s all in how we will right now and in the future react to these drastic social and climate changes, changes that may feel apocalyptic but may in fact be bringing new ways, uncharted territories of life, that define us.  Will we try to control, repress, and manipulate these life-bearers to our will? Or, will we, like Cedar bear witness to the beauty, and watch in the darkness with curiosity, tenderness and patience to see how the world around us grows and changes and fills with even more resilience, character and wondrous beauty. It is this beauty, the uncontainable and awe-filled power of Mother Nature, and of life-bearers, aka women 😊, that will ultimately save humanity and lead it towards a surprisingly, peaceful and even better world than we ever thought possible. ❤

In honor of Women’s History Month enjoy this music video from Ana Tijoux called Antipatriarca .

If you’ve never heard of Ana Tijoux before, she is a force of nature Chilean rap/hip-hop artist who has defied many stereotypes to speak her mind through her music.

My favorite verses of this song translated in English remind us:

I decide in my time how I want and what I want
Independent I was born, independent I decided
I don’t walk behind you, I walk alongside you
You won’t humiliate me, you won’t yell at me
You won’t put me down, you won’t hit me
You won’t denigrate me, you won’t force me
You won’t silence me, you won’t shut me up
….Beautiful women, you give life


My Journey


Author’s Note: While I have been inspired by the powerful and courageous stories from the #MeToo movement to share my own experience with trauma, I am not a survivor of sexual assualt, and do not pretend to be. I have chosen not to share the details of a traumatic event in my life because I want to stay focused on raising awareness about trauma and mental health issues and not so much on the traumatic incident itself. If you or a loved one are going through a traumatic life experience or battling mental illness, I encourage you to seek out professional help and take a peek at some resources I have found helpful in my own journey below. Peace, Sarah

—————————————————————————————————————————————–I’ve been trying to rewrite my story so many different times now, but tonight I am finally sitting down and doing it.

For the past 5 years I have battled with anxiety and post-traumatic stress due to a traumatic event in my life. For so long I didn’t realize the health issues I was facing were linked to trauma. I couldn’t even acknowledge the fact that what I had experienced was indeed traumatic, much less speak about my experience.

Generally speaking, I think most people think of PTSD survivors as veterans, which is true but doesn’t get the whole picture. This article on the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) explains it well.

According to the Sidran Institute, about 8 percent of all adults, or 1 in 13 people in this country, will develop PTSD during their lifetime. Women are twice as more likely to develop it than men.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had great support around me to heal. My family and friends mean the world to me and even when they haven’t fully understood what I’m facing, they truly have stood by me and listened. EMDR, a therapy treatment using eye movement and creative reprocessing, has helped me immensely. It was recognized in 2016 by the VA as a successful form of treatment for post-traumatic stress which I was thrilled to learn. I wouldn’t be myself again without the incredible therapists who have walked with me every step of the way.

I wanted others to know and understand a bit more of what it’s like when you are living with mental illness. So, I submitted a short entry to an organization called “Make it OK” that is doing great work to reduce the stigmatization surrounding mental health. Click here on My Story.

People who have experienced psychological trauma do not always develop a mental illness, but they do have a greater likelihood of developing one. There are direct links to communities that have higher levels of povery and violence and those that experience PTSD. Historical and psychological trauma are real. As Clincial psychologist Inger E. Burnett, an assistant professor at Northwestern University, writes:

“Trauma is more than a buzzword – the symptoms are real and have a profound impact on human lives. Until we recognize the fully realize the cyclical effects of neighborhood disorder, violence and its after effects, the open wounds in our communities cannot fully heal.”

For my fellow survivors:

We are the aftermath, the broken pieces, the wounded left behind to fight on our own. We have lived through car accidents, sexual assualt, abuse. We are people who have seen their families torn apart from mental illness, incarceration, divorce. The list goes on.

Trauma lives in the bones of our nation.

I think of the trauma mothers, spouses and 3 year old daughters in cars who have to endure in seeing their loved ones, their role models, or fathers have life taken away for no other reason than “driving while being black”; I think of all the women coming forward saying “enough”, speaking their stories in spite of reliving the pain of their dignity being violated; I think of all of the migrants here in this country newly-arrived and those who have called this country home long before settlers arrived fighting to make a better life for themselves and their families while trying to fend off the nightmares of the past and the fear of our police state taking all of that away from them.

Some people wonder who those are who battle with mental illness. Some call us “psychos” or “crazies”. Most people just don’t have any idea what it’s like to be battling mental illness.

Everyone and anyone who faces mental illness day in and day out and continues to live the best they can, to put one foot in front of the other and keep going, is truly incredible. I think we all would be a lot better off if we tried to learn from those who are facing mental illness and walk beside them instead of making jokes about their everyday battles.

They are heroes and sheroes. They are warriors. And, I hope we can start seeing them as the incredible people they are.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–Online Resources: 

NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness

Make It Okay Campaign


The Chemistry of Joy  by Dr. Henry Emmons

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

It Didn’t Start With You:  How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We are and How to End the Cycle  by Mark Wolynn




The power of hope

First signs of spring 2016

There is a lot of solace to be found in the simple act of writing. This Holy week I have been reflecting on the power of Hope. Each of us, whether we are Christian, Muslim, Jew or atheist, can understand the incredible capacity of people who despite all adversities maintain a spirit of hope, confident that a better way is possible. Even amidst the constant threats of violence, injustice and death, Hope remains alive.

I see it everyday.

I see it in the determined faces of the adult refugees I work with; I see it in the enduring friendships I’ve had that have carried me through tough times; I see it the trees and flowers wanting to make everything come back to life. Hope is palpable.

So, I ask you, my readers, where do you see hope in your everyday life?

As a daughter, I find hope in my mother’s relentless kindness, courage and sense of fun she exudes amidst the challenges she faces.

As a friend and partner, I find hope in the late night ice cream runs, road trips and the defiant phone calls )instead of texts) detemined to prove hearing your friend’s voice, both the laughter and pain filled moments, are always better than emojis.

As a woman, I find hope in friendships with older women, the mentors, in my life who never cease to amaze me with their well-lived but not weary, “let’s get down to work” spirit.

As a Christian, I find hope in the resurrection Christ brings.

Hope is in all of this.

Wherever you are on your life journey or spiritual path:  May this season of hope bring you a greater awareness of the new life that is found in the here and now.

Yearning to Breathe Free: A Poem

This is a poem I wrote back in 2013 that was originally published on this website. However, I felt it is just as timely now as ever.

Yearning to Breathe Free

Not like the formidable frontera that seems to travel in an endless expanse

Marked only by its trails of decay, misery and death

There stands a new, yet strangely familiar figure

Her hands are weathered from holding the torch that beckoned so many to her safe harbors

Yet her feet are firm; she has stood the test of time

Deliverance has made its home at her gates, welcoming strangers with her warm gaze and arms stretched out as if in a warm embrace

Huddled masses relentlessly pounding upon her breast, seeking a place of comfort and rest

But, through the night of standing watch

She was disarmed

With alarming fright

By people supposed to protect her

Land-dwellers. People from the left and the right,

One did not need to look far to the shore to see the abundance of florescent light,

Blindly pressing onward with their backs to the past

Like the Israelites of old forgetting stories of deliverance from the hand of an oppressor

The flame upon her torch slowly became a flicker, and then an ember until it was no more

Her gift of guidance had been cast aside in pursuit of a greater treasure, those who once cried mercy only called out for the “American Dream,” letting their new life be built upon the sweat, blood, and strife of those seeking deliverance of their own

This stolen light was a beacon of hope in a stormy night to the huddled masses that arrived at her feet pleading for freedom, for safety, for rest at the feet of the Virgin, more than just a statue, but a Mother Divine

This Mother of Exiles pleaded for a match, anything, with which to light the charred embers that served to remind the huddled masses what had been before the night… and why she must not give up the fight

From the land cries filled the night sky,

“We do not have enough to share with all of you, so go back to where you came from!”

Perplexed and distraught but never dismayed,

The huddled masses gathered the hand-carved crosses, religious figurines and old story cloths they kept as faint reminders of where they once came as a humble offering to reignite the untamed fires of freedom

Some of those on the shore already jumped away, into the vast abyss between the Lady and the land to return, as if on a pilgrimage to where their forefathers and mothers began

A sacred moment; A holy communion, some might say of meek and powerful reclaiming the stories of old, of the sweat, blood and pain that it took them to reach

A holy communion marked by the strength and sacrifice of a Mother who wouldn’t turn away those who came with hopes and dreams in their scarred hands

The fire is ablaze. The flame has been rekindled.

This light cannot be contained.

Its light spreads to even the farthest corners where traveling familias pray to the Virgen as they cross the Rio Grande, where children sit waiting for a sign of blue sky as visions of life beyond the bars of the refugee camp flash before their eyes, where parents weep asking why they left it all behind to find they were still at the bottom of the heap, where undocumented youth are told they must “get to the back of the line” where no line remains when they committed no crime but must daily endure the shame of being called “illegal,” without a name

Erupting into the night sky, the Mother Divine cries once more like she did at her birth with silent lips, “These tired, weary masses have come to breathe free, leaving their life behind to be crucified with only a vision of what might be. Woe to you who have shown little mercy, little hospitality, and little hope to your own. Your hearts they grew bitter and fear did replace that child-like wonder when you first saw my face. Now you have lived here two, three or four generations long, but I beseech you, I plead you, I beg you, do not forget where you came from

Remember that those weary hands were once your grandfather’s who struggled to provide a humble home laying bricks that would become the foundation for towers so high no one could imagine they could reach up to the sky

Remember that those tired feet were once your mother’s as she stood all night and day enduring the terrifying shrieks of the monstrous machines in a room suppressing her own hopes and dreams, just so her children could finally learn how to breathe, becoming the CEOs of a company she once worked, locked in a tower on the 30th floor sweating away.

Remember that those enduring spirits were once your parents as they labored each day hoping neither for fortune nor fame, but for a chance to give you a vision they never could have seen for themselves. One track laid upon the other through their unrelenting spirit paved the way for a railroad that would be used across the nation, stretching as far as if it were the Golden Gate bridge leading you home

Remember these longing souls were once your fore fathers and mothers willing to lay down their own lives so they could see the day when you would be free, not to further oppress or divide but to join the huddled masses to cry out for something better, for a hopeful future to all who might make their home in a place of better tomorrows than today.

Remember, remember…”

Her last words ring out as a voice of a prophet calling her people back from the wilderness, to a place of unity instead of divide, to a place of courage instead of fear and to a place of hope instead of despair

Shining brighter than ever, her torch still guides those who seek comfort, safety and rest

Like a queen leading a magnificent parade

This procession becomes a triumphant song of divine welcome

For all who may be yearning to breathe free.

Open letter to President-elect Trump

Dear President-elect Donald Trump,

I am writing to you to express my warmest welcome as Commander-in-Chief of our country.

While I fully detest and oppose your tactics used throughout your campaign that have incited violence, bigotry and hate of the worst kind, I must thank you. Thank you, really? You might ask, why? Let me tell you:  you being elected has been a reality check, an awakening of sorts, a timely reality check I needed.

We live in a society dominated and controlled by white and male supremacy, of which xenophobia, Islamophobia and homophobia all stem from. I, being a white straight woman, can go on most days without thinking so much as twice of this reality.  This isn’t to say I haven’t been involved or dedicated my time to the fight against these injustices, but I just really had no reason to confront them day in and day out.

Since your election I have been hit smack in the face with a blinding reality, reminding me that my safety, my self-worth, and rights can easily be denied, mocked or taken away.  I finally feel a sliver of the fear my friends, former colleagues, and neighbors who are people of color, immigrants, LGBTQIA+ and Muslim, have been facing all along.

But you know what? This could just be what saves White america from itself.

Now, that you are president we will look back on the days of having a highly-qualified diplomatic, thoughtful and inclusive leader in sweet reminiscence. Thank you for ensuring that President Obama will be the most revered, beloved president of our generation.

Now, that you are president our youth will learn just how important they are and how much we adults need their voices. They will be our reminders of hope, that better days are yet to come.

Now that you are president we won’t be able to forget the past–that our nation was built by slaves, grown by immigrants and fed by women. All who fought back, so it could be run by a Black president, created by Tawainese, French, Latin American immigrant inventors,  and shaken up by a group of women riveters who still cry out today “we can do it!”.

We (White people) need our black and brown, our asian and native, refugee and undocumented neighbors as never before. And, you know what? They need us too…we just haven’t been showing up for them in the ways that we need to. Well, now is the time for that to end.

So, in some strange way, I am thankful for you, Donald, because this nation, and most certainly YOU, are due for a huge reality check.

Now,  President-elect, the choice is right in your face:  side with white, male supremacy OR side with the historically disenfranchised, the oppressed counterparts in our nation.

The choice is yours.

Sincerely your annoyingly loud and proud feminist constituent,

Sarah M. Northrup


I have talked to some friends who face much, much greater threats and daily risks for just being who they are than me, and now that fear and anxiety is only heightened.

To my dear friends, family, former colleagues, and past students whom are undocumented, living in the shadows or DACA recipients; those whom just recently were able to get married in all 50 states and celebrate the unity of marriage with whomever they love; those whom have been harassed, interrogated for “driving while black” or face the threat of police brutality on a daily basis; those whom are the subjects of contempt, bigotry and hatred for the hijab they wear or the way they choose to practice their faith:   You matter. You are loved. You are not alone.

I promise to be the best ally I can be. To stand with you and for you. To listen to you, to learn from you and to follow your lead.   I will make mistakes, and have shortcomings, but I promise to fight by your side.

This is my promise.

“If there is no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another”~Mother Teresa

The Beautiful Game: A Poem

Last days of school are always bittersweet. And, this past one definitely was as well.

The last day of summer school right now is fresh on my mind and in my heart. So many words can be used to describe that last day. Unfortunately, I can’t share pictures of that day on this website due to legal privacy issues with showing photos of students that I would like to respect. If you want to see a few, just ask and I’ll share them with you not on my website.

Instead, Here’s a few photos I found of refugee  women playingimage     image

I played “the beautiful game” aka soccer with my 7th and 8th grade young women for roughly an hour…and was completely shown up by their talent, skill and persistence 🙂 Here’s a few photos I found of refugee young women playing the game all across the world!

My female students and I actually didn’t even plan on playing soccer together. It was one of the moments that you look back on and wish you could let them stand still in time forever. We were all outside for “field day” and the gentlemen decided they just wanted to play a game of soccer. Instead of sitting on the sidelines or having to deal with the frustration of not getting passed the ball, these ladies took the reins to make it a game of their own.

Most of the students I worked with were Karen, a minority ethnic group originally from Myanmar (Burma) who have been heavily persecuted. Many of my Karen students grew up in a refugee camp or had spent significant time living in a refugee camp in Thailand. This poem is for them.

~The Beautiful Game~

Dribble, pass, shoot.

It was a beautiful day to play a beautiful game.

And, so they decided it was their day too.

To make the plays; to call the shots; to sweat; to not let the fast rhythm of their breath stop them make the next step; to be proud of what they had done.

Dribble, pass, shoot.

Thinking back to the days they used to watch and pray. Behind closed walls, where noises were like thunder, cries of longing told it all.

Dribble, steal, shoot.

Back to the times when they would sit with their mothers and their sisters and dream like babies without vision of the things that kept them trapped.

Block, trap, dribble, pass.

Trying to stop the memories from flooding in all at once of terror and of triumph over a thread of tranquility…that was real at one time.

Shouts, “Pass it, center field, I’m open.”

It is not the fear of hunger, of the killers, of the other, that keeps you alive. It is the constant rhythm of life; the beauty of a dance at night, the celebrations that won’t ever stop, it is the sound of your heart as you breathe in and out in the same beat, overcoming all the memories of how far you have traveled and what your eyes too young have seen.

Pass, cross it, head it, you made it.

It is that moment when your heart dances to the rhythm of  your feet that reminds you life, with all its suffocating spaces, is still beautiful.