Faith Through the Eyes of a Wildlife Conservationist and Herbalist
Your story’s gonna change…just wait for better days
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” the teacher would ask us.
Some of us would giggle and look around at each other embarrassingly. Others would remain stone-faced and frozen, feeling the weight and pressure the question held.
I, depending on the day, would fall somewhere in between each of these groups.
Some days I was extremely confident knowing I felt in my heart that I knew what I wanted to be.
Some days, I was confused and feeling discouraged.
That was almost 3 decades ago.
3rd grade class…
To this day…I still hate those types of questions.
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Faith Through the Eyes of a Wildlife Conservationist and Herbalist
Growing up in a suburban area of a small country industrial town in Northwest Ohio, I always felt a sense of longing.
It’s different when you grow up in a smaller, more rural city and you are constantly living and doing life next to other living beings. Cows, goats, chickens, horses, (the occasional barn cat), all of these amazing creatures were basically just like family and not “out of the ordinary” for us.
It would be different for someone growing up in a city culture such as LA or NYC, their external connections to the world has a different texture to it.
My parents provided me many opportunities as a child, even though we were considered lower-middle class. We didn’t have a lot of money, but what they did leave me with was memories and kinesthetic experiences that I would forever take with me as I grew up.
At the age of two I started in dance, by the age of seven I was doing dance and gymnastics competitively.
My heart had always been in dance, and by the age of 12 I had to make a choice (mostly due to financial reasons). I chose dance, and continued dancing competitively until I graduated high school, then I went on to perform professionally and choreographed professionally as well.
It was early on in college that I started learning and becoming more connected to conservation and sustainability efforts. It was also during this season of my life that the desire to learn about my heritage and cultural identity became more meaningful to me.
You know, there’s many things that carve our paths for what our values will become, what we prioritize, what we resonate with, and for me there were several influences over the decades that instilled certain values upon my heart.
Cultural and Family Ancestors Calling
I knew from a fairly young age that I was adopted.
As a child, I didn’t really have much of a yearning to find out anything about my birth family nor to better understand my heritage.
One major reason was because of how that topic was viewed within my adoptive family. I was growing up in a geographic area and societal time that racial tensions were still well alive especially in more rural areas.
Additionally, indigenous children were not really prominent in my hometown so, I was somewhat doubly isolated from showing interest in my own identity.
However, as a young adult, once I left for college, I began feeling more welcomed and accepted researching my indigenous identity and asking all the questions that were buried deep down for almost two decades.
After battling my own recurring fears and doubts, in 2014-2015 the state of Ohio amended their adoption laws and allowed for certain information releases to no longer be sealed. It seemed like a pretty straight forward sign for me that this was the right path to travel down.
But I soon realized, that before I could process the potential of reuniting (or the reality of not) with a birth family, I needed to understand who I was at my core, in my soul.
Isn’t it a saying that before we can show up and pour into others, we must first pour and show up for ourselves first?
Through various sources and research, I learned that I was born into Cherokee and Shawnee tribal affiliations. I spent the next 5-10 years deep-diving into that raw, ancestral history that flowed through my veins.
Herbalism and Wildlife Conservation Impact on my Life
Conservation came into my life a lot earlier than herbalism. I had the amazing blessing to volunteer and work for the World Wildlife Fund on its Save the Tiger Campaign soon after it initially began in 2010.
I cannot describe the intrinsic connection I felt knowing that the depth of the compassion I had developed over the decades for this amazing planet, the amazing wildlife, and how to serve it through faith, could only come from a life force that was greater than the whole universe: God.
Often when God speaks to me, I find it is usually through apostle Paul or the prophet Isaiah.
As a human race, and children of God, we are called to serve all of Creation, not just our own species. Paul spent much of the New Testament speaking to various churches about how to serve as Christ does and how to grow as a steward to the world.
Additionally, Isaiah makes a clear distinction: we are to call this land that God provided us as our own. Meaning, to take responsibility for, to tend to, to care for.
About two years ago, I was granted the opportunity to go back to school (amidst the pandemic) and study herbalism.
I had been chronically ill for the last 8-9 years, and I was at a point of the most despair and hopelessness, when it came to my health, that I had ever felt.
After numerous specialists and naturopaths gave up and said that “there really isn’t anything wrong with you,” I decided to seek out herbalism as a way to empower myself, advocate for other women, and to return back to ancient healing from the earth.
I just had a strong feeling, I was to find my answer if I traveled down this path. As if God was whispering “you’ve been looking in all the wrong places my daughter…here, come follow me.”
Conservation and Sustainability Impact on my Faith
I have learned over the years 2 main factors as it relates to my faith:
- My faith is ALWAYS represented through the lens of being an image-bearer of Christ & through the eyes of living life as a conservationist and herbalist.
- When God places a calling upon your life to move in this world, you do it, regardless if you do it seemingly alone.
I think my faith has evolved into something more amazing than I ever thought possible.
The power of God is unspeakable, and He has used my indigenous identity and turned it into something beautiful.
He has used my medical struggles and turned it into something valuable. He has used all my failures, mistakes, and mis-guided beliefs, and turned them into my testimony for which I am alive today to share and tell the world.
If someone told me 4-5 years ago that I would be a clinical herbalist conservationist now, I maybe would have thought “hmm, sounds like something I’d be interested in doing…” but I would have totally dismissed it because of all the self-doubt I had within me.
God cleansed all that. He took that all away.
Is my life easy now? Heck no! That’s not what He said living by faith would be (quite the opposite actually).
So, if you have taken the time to read this and share in a bit of my story…
First off: THANK YOU. Really, thank you. Because it’s a very vulnerable place for me to be in, and for you to spend a couple minutes even holding space for my testimony, it means a lot.
Second: if you are still wondering how my faith is so closely intertwined in the earth, and our planet, the tigers, (starting to sound like the Wizard of Oz, I know…I know.) and ancient native american healing…
Look, I totally get it.
We are all impacted in many different ways in our faith, and I feel that points to the awesomeness of God and the diversity of the vision for His kingdom.
Not all of Christ’s children are called to serve the planet and wildlife in the same way that I have been called to do. However, I do believe we are all called and expected to do our part to not harm and not add to the continued devastation and deterioration of our world’s ecosystem. It has been strategically put in place for us all to thrive and live together!