Over the weekend I spent the night in a tepee. Experienced my first coming-of-age ceremony.
And I felt incredibly honored to be included in this spiritual rite of passage for a young woman of Mexican-Indian heritage.
As I participated in this powerful and sacred ceremony, I found myself imagining the possibilities.
What if all girls greeted the threshold of womanhood supported by the kind of love, wisdom, mirroring, and honoring I witnessed these indigenous women showering upon this very blessed 13-year-old girl?
What if every girl learned that her body was something to be honored, not ashamed of?
That she is beautiful, inside and out, just as she is? Without needing to change anything.
That she does not need to fear expressing herself? Or be afraid to learn from making mistakes?
That she can listen to and trust her inner wisdom?
It has taken me years to learn these lessons. Years accompanied by much struggling and pain. And often feeling I was on my own in the process.
Yet 13-year-old Trinity already knows who she is.
Grounded in the sacredness of her people’s earth-honoring ceremonies, empowered by the love of her community, and centered in an awareness of the Creator present in all life, she is entering this stage of her life totally prepared. Her humility, maturity, and sensitivity impressed me.
Even her name impressed me.
Only weeks ago I had been a stranger to this community. Until I met Carlos, and, without hesitation, he invited me.
The abuela (grandmother) of their tribe wasn’t so sure. After all, she didn’t know this white-faced woman. But she welcomed me. As did every member of the community. They welcomed a stranger into their circle.
I couldn’t help but think that this was the Gospel message of “welcome the stranger” in action.
Later that evening, we gathered around a lantern in the tepee, setting up our cots and sleeping bags. After settling in, we told coming-of-age stories, while outside the darkness deepened.
We shared some of our most embarrassing moments, to let this young woman know that, yes, you will have these moments. You will make mistakes, too. It’s inevitable. And you will survive.
As I listened to these women share their wisdom, the moonlight poured in through the opening in the top of the tepee. The beauty of this spiritual ritual deeply touched me. And I wished I’d had such a ceremony to welcome my menses, my “moon.”
In the circle we shared our gifts for Trinity. Mine was a poem I’d written and a beautiful broken seashell—a whelk—I’d found on Atlantic Beach while vacationing with special friends. At first I hesitated to part with it.
But I knew it was the perfect gift.
And my words for Trinity are words for all girls coming of age, especially those who don’t have a circle of wise women guiding them forward, as I did not have. I share them here.
Learn to trust your inner guidance, the wisdom that resides within.
As a girl, no one told me this.
As a woman, it took years to discover the truth.
Our inner authority is the voice of God within.
You can trust it.
Don’t be afraid to be seen.
Don’t shrink under the power of others.
Be all that you are,
Empowered by your unique gifts.
Know that all that you are is gift to the world.
Be grateful always for this gift.
This broken shell I found on a beach in North Carolina
It spoke to me of my woundedness, my brokenness.
And how, even with these broken places within me, I am whole and perfect and beautiful.
This is the message I want to give to you.
Become the woman you were meant to be, fully alive
Not holding anything back, not afraid of your gifts or your power
Not afraid of your broken places.
Strengthened by the challenges, the hurts, the sufferings
Be grateful for the pain and suffering along the way.
They are your teachers.
They may take pieces of your heart,
But they will make you shine like a shell in the sea.
May we learn from the wisdom of native cultures. May we honor this gift called life as we cross each threshold. May we give thanks to the Creator for all of life.