I hope you're all safe and healthy. Thank you for joining my posse and staying with me. I have some exciting news today. First, Arty Goes West and Arty and the Hunt for Phantom are now available on Amazon.com in e-book format. By the first of next week, Arty and the Texas Ranger should be there too. Arty's Long Day will follow later this month, and I plan to add the las two books in the series some time in May. I've encountered a few difficulties with Five for the Trail and the first two Bounty Hunter Nate Landry books, but I expect to have them ready by next week.
Now, the second bit of good news is that I have a guest blog to share with you today from my friend and fellow Christian author, Jenny Fulton. I hope you'll enjoy meeting her and reading her book.
Remember, you can leave my posse whenever you want to, but I hope you'll stay and invite your friends to join us too.
Mark L. Redmond
The Impact of a Native American Heritage
By Jenny Fulton
I was born Jenny Ann Litfin. I’m a quarter Navajo; a white Navajo; a mutt. From as early as I can remember, I have loved the fact that the blood of this people runs through my veins. My eyes are brown and my skin tans dark in the summer. My hair, however, was light brown when I was young. I always wished it were darker, so I’d look more like the Natives.
This heritage fostered within me an awareness of the spiritual side of life, an appreciation for and connection with nature, a love for languages and cultures.
Although I didn’t grown up in the Navajo Nation, I heard stories about it from my dad and cousins. I’ve heard it said that to be Navajo is to be spiritual. Many of them know the Biblical truth that as humans, we are both body and spirit. They know there is a spiritual world that often interacts with and impacts the physical one. Conversations with my dad often include elements of the Spiritual side of life.
“Jenny, if someone ever comes to mind, that’s the Holy Spirit telling you to pray for them.”
“Have you ever had the feeling that you should stop going one direction and start going another? That’s the Holy Spirit directing and protecting you.”
Sometimes Dad would tell me stories of the supernatural things he’d seen and experienced while living there or in Oregon. These were normal conversations in my family, and it didn’t occur to me until recently that this kind of speech may not be normal for everyone.
When I was young, we’d make the trip to the Navajo Nation to visit family or spend time at the mission where my dad had lived for several years.
I loved everything about the land. I was in awe of the mountains. My eyes soaked in the sight of the rising mesas, the rainbow-colored cliffs, the wild and untamed beauty of the terrain. My other senses were equally mesmerized. My ears listened in wonder to sounds that traveled across the mesas and through the canyons from miles away. Smells moved as easily as the noise. If someone was cooking anything nearby, you knew it.
The wonder and beauty of the land lifted my heart to the Creator of it all. How good God is to have filled this earth with so much beauty and color. There is much we can learn about Him by observing his creations, for “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”
I loved it when my Grandma Lillian Litfin came to visit. She went on walks with me, made us fry bread, and talked to me like I was an adult. I loved the look of her dark brown skin and the musical quality of her speech with its Navajo tone. One time she came to visit in the fall while school was in session. We were studying Native Americans and I was able to get permission for her to speak to my class. I was proud of my heritage and excited to share both it and my grandma with my friends.
When I was ten, I was asked to be the flower girl in my uncle’s wedding. It took place at the Navajo mission. When the day arrived, two Navajo women helped me get ready. They tied my hair back in a Navajo bun. When I looked in the mirror, I could see the pretty design of the hair tie and the white yarn hanging down from it. I was dressed in traditional Navajo attire. The shirt was long-sleeved, white, and velvet. It felt hot and sticky on an already hot day. The long blue skirt fell to my ankles and brushed against the top of my soft, brown moccasins. The ladies wrapped a long red belt around and around my waist.
“I can’t breathe,” I said.
“Good,” one of them said. “That’s how it’s supposed to feel.”
Now fully attired in my beautiful, though hot and uncomfortable, flower-girl clothes, the ladies led me out of the building and down the dirt path to the church.
Elderly Navajo women stopped us to touch my face and my hair. Some of them removed turquoise jewelry they were wearing and placed it around my neck and wrist. I loved the kindness and gentleness in their smiling, wrinkled faces. It made me feel special, loved, accepted, protected. The fact that I was so different from them didn’t seem to matter.
After the wedding, I walked over to the playground. Two Navajo girls about my age were there. They looked at me and began speaking to one another in Navajo. It felt weird knowing I was such an outsider, but in a way, I didn’t mind. I liked hearing the language with its melodic rise and fall. Even though the words were different, its tone reminded me of my grandma’s voice.
The fascination I felt for languages and cultures didn’t end with the Navajo. Rather, this connection triggered a wider interest in other languages and cultures. My early experiences in being surrounded by those who looked and spoke differently shaped the way I’d feel and respond in similar situations. Although there was a bit of awkwardness, in a way, these differences simply represented another aspect of family.
When I went to college, I helped out with a Sudanese ministry in Omaha, traveled to Mexico with the school, and attended a Spanish speaking church when I returned. After graduating form Grace University, I moved to China to teach at an international school. Throughout my travels, my love for America’s Indigenous people remained strong. In 2010, I moved to the Navajo Nation to teach at one of their schools. Although I moved again a year later, my love and connection to the people didn’t change. They are a part of me, a part I deeply treasure.
Not surprisingly, the influences of my Navajo heritage have also made their way into my writings.
In Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye, the mother is Navajo, the father and grandpa are Caucasian, and the little girl is a beautiful mixture of both. She is dressed as a Navajo Princess with her hair tied up in a Navajo bun. The racial differences in this book are celebrated with the family’s love for each other and their common understanding that people of every nation, tribe, and tongue are part of God’s kingdom.
Book Blurb for Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye
Can two worlds exist at the same time?
Little Princess Lillian learns the spiritual world can interact with the physical. Imaginary is used to explain a reality, how heaven reaches down to earth as a young girl observes her grandpa awaiting his entrance into his eternal home.
How do you explain death and heaven to a child?
Led through a long hall in a hospital, Princess Lillian holds her mom's hand as an angel whispers comforting words.
Incorporating bits of Native American and Christian tradition, an intimate celebration of a loved one's passing occurs as a family says good-bye to a man eager to meet his best friend, the King Above All Nations.
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Jenny Fulton is a wife, mother, children's book author, YA fantasy author, blogger, and freelance writer with a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in elementary education, and an endorsement in K-12 ESL. After graduating from Grace University in 2007, Jenny worked as a teacher in a variety of cultural and educational settings, both abroad and in the United States. She is a storyteller, a follower of Christ, and a seeker of truth.
An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Jenny grew up hearing stories from her dad about the supernatural workings on the Navajo Reservation. Her days are now mostly spent raising her three young daughters (homeschooling two of them) and writing as much as time and opportunity allows.
Jenny is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Faithwriters.com, and is an author with Capture Books.
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