Friday, November 4, 2016

I've been guest blogging for my church

 https://fourwardwrcc.org/  Find a blog written by me and then you can click on my name at the bottom to see them all.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

White mom talking

This morning residents of 2 different towns in my county and the neighboring one woke up to racist white power propaganda on their front porch, distributed by the KKK. While I trust that sickens most of you, I cannot even start to explain what it feels like to explain to my child whose race is the subject of this hate. I am not a black man, nor am I a black woman. I do not pretend to be an expert on race but my life experience as the only white member of my brown skinned family has given me a unique life experience.  So this is just a white mom talking. A mom with experiences I’d like to share with you in case it helps any of you see things through a different lens. My hope is that this will help those of you that know me, know my family, see what is almost impossible for white families to see without families of color sharing it with you. This isn’t comfortable to share. I don’t want to be accused of making race an issue. It already is. I don’t want to share times that we’ve been humiliated or hurt. They aren’t easy things to talk about. These aren’t excuses either. My hope is that you may see things in a different way or believe my story so that you may also come to believe others. With all of the pain in our country right now, it is so imperative that we attack the root of the cause.  If race has placed this much a part of my daily life as a white woman in one of the wealthiest counties in our state, can you see how much it might play for our black brothers and sisters? Especially those in poor urban areas. Can you for a second imagine living under that microscope and understand where the fatigue and frustration come from? 

I have heard dozens of racist jokes in my lifetime. I have been told some bit of nonsense from an unsuspecting stranger that assumes I share their racist thinking because of our shared whiteness, more times than I care to count. 

I had dated a dozen other guys before I ever dated someone that wasn’t white. Not a single person had ever given me their advice on if I should date those guys or not. Not a single person had ever said they didn’t care if I dated them but they just wouldn’t. Until I dated a black man. I remember dating a biracial guy in college and a relative proclaiming with relief, “oh he’s not that black.” I've heard countless times that my husband isn't really black. He's Jamaican. It's said as if that is better in some way. Huh? 

My husband and I were just dating the first time I remember blatant in your face hate being thrown in our direction. We were sitting in a fast food establishment and the gentlemen sitting next to us loudly proclaimed "YOU MAKE ME SICK" and they couldn’t eat their meal with people like us sitting there. He threw around the N word and glared at us with hate.  I remember that was the first time I was afraid for my safety because of the way we looked. That was in 1993.

The next year we would be refused service at a restaurant. No wait staff ever came to our table. I had no idea why. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and went and let the hostess know we were still waiting. Still no one came. Later that year, I would hear on the news that restaurant would settle a 54 million dollar lawsuit for refusing people service based on race. Everywhere we went people stared. No one ever thought we were together. We were always brought separate bills or the bill was given to me. My parents would not have been legally able to marry if they looked like us. My parents. In our lifetime a black person could not marry a white person. 

After we were married, 30 years after it became legal for interracial couples to do so, we went to a local furniture store for a new mattress. We waited for 20 minutes without being helped. Furniture stores are a bit like car dealerships and you can’t walk two feet without being asked if you need anything.  I watched as no less than 6 employees ignored us. They would look our way now and then. Again, the benefit of the doubt. We laid on the mattress so they would know we were serious about purchasing. We walked to each of the displays and read about them. Another couple came in and they were helped immediately. And then another. And then another. 45 minutes and nothing. Nothing. We honestly sat around that long because I couldn’t believe it was so bold. I calmly asked to speak with the manager. I was told he was at another location up the road. I told them they could call him and let him know I was coming. I walked in and told that manager what had happened. He tried to explain it as an isolated incident and offered me 20% off. I assured him 6 employees with the same behavior was not an isolated incident and they would never even get 80% of my money. This was 1999. Attitudes take longer to change than laws do. 

As time’s gone on, we’ve gotten less stares or maybe we're just used to it now. There are way more couples that look like us. We have had less blatant hate thrown our way. Things are better in many ways. Better is always relative. You don't want your cancer to be better. You want it to be cured. 

We moved from a diverse community to a more homogenous white suburban area for my husband’s job in 2005.  I was told I’m lucky he is black because that’s why he made it through all the layoffs at his company. Told they must have been too afraid to let a black person go. I guess it doesn’t matter that he is the best at what he does and has never missed a day of work. Our children are a definite minority at their schools.  Our family has absolutely been accepted and welcomed beautifully by most. We love our community. While there have been few outright racist hateful interactions, there has been many times of being the spokesperson for all people of color or being the only one in a sea of white. People have always wanted to touch my children’s hair. Most without asking. While I have always taught my children it is just a curiosity and not meant to be offensive, it drives home that feeling of other. I had to laugh when the cheerleading team had to wear their hair in a ponytail with a matching bow and my daughter had only a short natural afro. None of that is overtly racist but I need you to see that race is an issue. I need you to know it is. While many things are not done from a place of hate or exclusion, it doesn’t change the effect it can have on a person of color.

Every book, every poster, every representation of a child they see at their school reflects the faces of someone other than them. Until they learn about slavery and the civil war and watch movies in history class where people are being killed for the color of their skin and they sit there as one of the only others. They sit in class while the movie is watched for it’s historical perspective and not once has any one considered the emotional implications for my child sitting there with brown skin.  So we have tough conversations at home about what that was like for them and they can safely let the tears come. Most kids are uncomfortable learning those things but it's next to impossible not to internalize the pain when it would have been you just years before. 

A teacher, that I trust loves and cares for my child, asked her not to describe another African American child as black. She said it wasn't a nice word. My child is black. It carries no shame. It is not a bad word. I have sat in the pick up line at school behind a truck with white power stickers covering it and wondered what that meant for the safety of my child. I have been told my children are athletic before they’ve ever seen them run. I have been told we have an advantage because coaches will want them on their team because of the color of their skin.  I'm guessing white family's kids make it because of their hard work, skill and passion for the game. All 5 of my children have come home from school and told me that one of their classmate didn’t want to play with them because of the color of their skin. All 5 of my children. This is 2016.

My nephews and my son’s friends all have air soft or fake guns that they play with in their neighborhoods. I will never let my boys participate. It’s not a chance I would ever take. Hoodies make me nervous for my child when my child is just trying to stay warm.

I have a hundred other moments I could share. Some of those are obvious and others I’m left wondering if race was the issue…if it played a role.  That’s the thing with brown skin. It makes a difference enough in this world that you don’t get the privilege of not having to think about it.

While I have seen great strides in racial understanding and acceptance, while I am so very thankful for those that have come before fighting for just that, it does not mean we still don’t have work to do. It does not mean it is over.  I know so many people that say it isn’t an issue. What that tells me is it isn’t an issue for you in your heart. What it also tells me is that you aren't listening. Please know, please believe that it still is for many people. It’s not on your radar because it doesn’t have to be. For us to live in unity, for us to move past the very real pain in our nation right now, we have to first acknowledge the root of this pain. We have to believe the suffering of others when they vulnerably share it with us.

When your life experience has given you a mountain of times your skin made a difference in how you were treated, perceived, spoken about or spoken to, hired or fired, esteemed or trivialized, made to feel less than or other…it needs to be recognized. It needs to be given a voice and heard. It needs to be believed. And we acknowledge it and we grieve with those wronged and we rise up together to work against it. We scour the darkness of our own heart and we bring the bias in to light. We continue to do the hard and the holy so that in 30 years my children and your children can talk about how far we’ve come. So that in 30 years racial unrest will seem as foreign to them as separate drinking fountains seems to us.  

I write this because I want you to see. I need you to see. I can’t convince any one I don’t know. I am not trying to. I’m desperately talking to the you that knows me, knows us. I’m pleading with you to see what the world has been like for us so you can imagine what it might be like for someone else. Try to understand where the fatigue and frustration might come from for people of color. I am asking you to try and hear my heart instead of defend any political position. I am not sharing this with you for sympathy. I am hoping for empathy for people you may not know but might look like my husband, my sons, my daughters. I am hoping for an aha-I-had-no-idea-moment. If even for just one of you. I'm hoping you can see how much a part of society it is that it is impossible for it not to also be a part of our social systems. 

This racial tension and unrest hurt my heart like nothing else. So many people trying to be heard and so many people worrying so much about their rightness that there isn’t any room for loving anybody. We all see color. Please don't say you are colorblind. It’s a descriptor. It’s impossible not to see. See it. No one wants to be unseen. Celebrate it. Revel in our uniqueness and beauty and differences. Being color blind should not be our goal. We need to recognize the beauty in the diversity of humanity. We need to affirm that each culture and color brings it’s own unique set of experiences in to our world and enriches all of our lives. We need to realize that every person is a person all their own and the sins of a few should not mar the integrity of many. We need to praise God for His design and that we are all made in His image. We need to continue the work that has been started and stand united in the worth of one another. Stand together in our humanity.



The issues we have seen in the news lately are a symptom. We are too scared to talk about it. We are too scared of the work to do so we watch as it divides. I can assure you that racial issues are playing apart in the daily life of almost every person of color in our country and it feels deeply personal. It is impossible for recent events not to feel personal to even me. Ask any police officer or their spouse. They will tell you how personal it feels. This violence has to stop. Let’s not be afraid. Let’s be bold in love and unity. Let’s stop dismissing the feelings of so many because of our fear of what that means for all of us. Let’s trust the intentions of others. Let’s address the heart issue we have in our country, in our own community, in our selves. Let’s have hard conversations, acknowledge injustice and ask forgiveness. Let’s say to the black community, we hear you! We believe you and we had no idea. We will teach our children differently. We will speak up when we hear hate. We will identify the dark corners of our own hearts. We will build relationships with others in an effort to work on our own biases. Let’s move toward one another in the spirit of Jesus and call on His power to heal our hearts. Let's do the work; together, in our hearts, in our communities. In Unity, in His name. 


Friday, April 29, 2016

The hard and the holy.

It happened. They said it would. Not from him. I thought I was prepared so the sting took my breath away. From behind the closed door, “This family is stupid. I wish I was never adopted.” Do I open the door and say that I’ve heard? Walk away? The anger seems too big to carry alone. Too big for a 10 year old boy.

I walk in and ask him to look at my eyes. I ask if he would like to share those thoughts with me now? “No.” I ask why he said it . As his eyes meet mine, “Because I’m angry.” I tell him I understand that but we don’t speak hatred out of anger. I tell him I’m glad he is using his words but there are different ones to use. Ones that won’t hurt people like his hurt me as a tear gives way. I tell him I am trying to help him learn healthy ways to deal with his anger and give him some paper and tell him to write his feelings down if he needs to and I turn and walk out.

It is said calmly. It is said with love and concern and understanding. It is said with bravery. I didn’t want to have that conversation but I did. Because I can do hard things and so can he. I get to teach him that. And with God’s help, we can do it with love.

It had been a hard day. Behavior issues I thought we were past reared their ugly head. He had lost a privilege for two days. I was ruining his life. Your average tween things except for this isn’t average. He is an average boy that has been through a not so average life. I’m an average mom trying to love extra ordinary. Life calls us to hard sometimes.

I realize that part of our day could have very easily triggered things in him and wonder if he is just having a hard time verbalizing them. I feel a hand slip around my waist, “Mommy, I’m sorry for my behavior today,” and he squeezes me with every ounce of himself. This is the boy I know. This is the boy I’ve watched him grow in to right in front of me.

I hold this little man boy’s face in my hands and thank him for his apology and accept it. I let the tears from my face land on his because I want this sweet boy to know that I take loving him very seriously. I want him to know this mother son thing is hard and it hurts and it heals and we will always figure it out together. I squeeze back even tighter so that message is felt deep in his bones. That is bravery. To ask forgiveness is brave. This sweet boy walked in to my life at the age of 3 and opened up his heart to me. He let me love him when I’m sure there was nothing scarier. He loved me back. He loved new siblings, a new dad, new aunties and uncles, cousins and grandparents.  He forgives us when we fail him and he shares his feelings with us when it’s hard to. He let joy in to his life and some days needs to remind himself over and over again that he’s deserving of it.  This boy so many define by his adoption, his grief, his loss. This boy that is so much more than that. This boy has taught me courage. 

This kid. My son. What a beautiful gift it is to be his mom. Hard and exhausting, maddening and emotional…a privilege and a joy…. In the midst of this ugly I wanted to scream and cry and feel sorry for myself. With that little arm and that soft low voice asking forgiveness, I was reminded, God, that you see me. You are ever present, God With Us. In the ugly and the wonderful, in the hard and the holy. In it all, You are working. If we let you, You will write this story and it may be difficult but oh, will it be beautiful. Thank you, God, for it all. May it shape us both in to who you’d have us be.  



**Are you in the hard or the holy? God is in both. Trust that.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Painting toes and praising Jesus

Some times you don't make it to church on Sunday. Some times grief sneaks up on your child and comes seeping down her face. Some times you put everyone else in the car and you sit that little girl down and you talk to her about the hard things. You hold her face and you look in her eyes and you tell her how sorry you are that she has to do such hard things. You tell her how valued and worthy she is. You talk about the grief and her biological momma and your chest will ache from the pain she carries. Your tears fall with hers and your shirt will cling to your shoulder where her tears and snot have settled. You talk to her about the good and you carefully and honestly discuss the not so good and you paint a picture of a life before you, a life she no longer remembers. You show her the picture, the one of her first mom and her beautiful smile. You point out the similarities and the ends of her sweet mouth turn up at the sight and the blank look in her eyes of not recognizing her mom's face catches in your throat in a mass of the things missed. And you don't even try to wipe the tears anymore. Hers or yours. You just simply say, when things get hard, I will never leave you. When you are sad, I will be here with you in it and we will talk it through. While you miss and love your first momma, it doesn't push your forever momma away. There is enough room here for that love and longing. It's okay here. I am so sorry you are hurting. You tell her it is completely understandable and normal that she feels like this and that there are other sons and daughters all over the world feeling just like she does right now. You tell her she is not alone. You tell here that sometimes it makes you angry and that's okay if she ever feels that too. You tell her about Jesus and His love for her. You tell her He was adopted. You tell her your love for her is unconditional.  You tell her that love often looks like service and sacrifice. You sit her on the couch and you grab her little feet and you wash them and you put lotion on them and you paint those little toes and you have church right there while you do it. Church right there with the little brown feet and the snot and the tears.

You serve her with the best of you. You sing praise songs and the tears slow and she will look at you with that sweet look that shows you just how important you are to her. And your heart...your heart can barely take it. This sweet girl struggling to share her grief with you and not hurt your feelings at the same time. This sweet girl in this sacred time trying to balance all of that. You hug her with a fierceness that says we are in this together. You show her your love for her in the simple task of painting her toes. You feel God's presence there...in this space...in your family room surrounded by a dozen little bottles of bright spring nail polish and tear stained faces because church is wherever we bring it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mamaw

My mamaw had 8 children. Her first were twins. One, my aunt Doris, born with hydrocephaly, had significant special needs until she died at the age of 16. It shaped her life. The other was my momma. My mamaw raised all of her children on a farm in Southern Indiana. She was selfless, generous, no-nonsense and kind. She could play cards  or pray the rosary with the best of them. She laughed; really let herself laugh.  She showed me who I wanted to be.



A few friday nights ago,  I walked in to her hospital room where 25 other family members stood. They made a path for me to the side of her bed. I made it. She had seen all 7 of her living children and their spouses during this long day. All 26 of her grandchildren had either visited in person or thankfully for those far away, through Facetime. The first born of her 31, soon to be 38 great grandchildren, my daughter, got to kiss her face.  I felt that kind of sadness that feels like it’s physically pulling the pit of your stomach out through your chest. The sadness that gurgles out of you in sounds you don't recognize as your own and your body shakes....the kind of sadness that some people spend a lifetime protecting themselves from. But I let it come. I feel the intense wave of  grief and it brings with it that peace you can only get from knowing you’ve loved with all you have. I could not love this lady more. I could not be more thankful to her for the selfless example she gave. I could not have been more undeserving and privileged to have this Mamaw as my very own.  I wanted to see her again before she meets Jesus, we all did…not because of things left unsaid but out of sheer longing to be with her as long as we can be on this earth.

She holds on to my hand with the grip of a toddler to a cheerio and focuses in on me with the one eye that will cooperate enough to open. I can see the recognition. I feel the squeeze of my hand and the squeeze squeeze when I show her Trevor and Grace are here too. She knows. Her breathing is labored and she is exhausted from the work it requires. I kiss her face and run my fingers across her thin skin and the wedding band she still wears. I tell her it is okay. I thank her for her selflessness, her example. I express how excited I think Jesus will be to meet her. I imagine her meeting up with my Papaw and them swinging together on their porch again.  I think of my aunt Doris waiting all this time for her momma. I look up from her face and see my family standing in that room. I see their stories like one of those flipograms in my mind. Triumphs and struggles, flaws and friendships, loyalty and love. I see all of us together. Always. This family of mine, half dysfunction half delight. Together. That’s the key. This woman whose bed we are surrounding knew that. She is why we all stand here. She is why we all stand together.


People often say they wish they had a family like ours. I get it, believe me. They sometimes say it like I’m lucky though. It’s not luck.  That family is work. This togetherness, this unity, this love is not easy. Every single one of those people in that circle have done something the person standing next to them could be mad about. That circle could just as easily have held bitterness and anger, deceit and dread, tension and tired excuses.  But it did not. It won’t. Mamaw has taught us all it’s not worth it. Do we agree 100% with everything everyone does all the time. No. Does being mad about it change anything but your relationship? Nope. It’s not worth it. The only thing worthy of our energy is our relationships. It is why several of the people standing in that room drove for hours with no guarantee they would make it. It’s because of that relationship. It is worth everything. A four hour drive. Worth it. The hard work of forgiveness. Worth it. A last hug, a laugh. Worth it. The pain of letting go of pride. Worth it.  Setting aside winning the argument so you can hold on to peace. Worth it. Not bringing up that mistake you made that one time every time you make another. Worth it. Loving others well is rarely convenient but it is always worth it. That circle hasn’t been free of drama or struggle or wrongs done, it’s just known love was more important. Always. Mamaw made sure of it.  For that I will forever be grateful.




    

We buried my mamaw this past weekend. As I watched the little children run in the meadow next to the cemetery, and my aunts make sure each of their sisters had a flower from the arrangement on the casket...as I saw the pat on the back from one uncle to the other and a chuckle from one about something the other said...
even as I felt the aching for her in my chest...
I was reminded that life for all of us continues.  Together. 




Originally posted for Every Child on Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Forever Family

The Every Child conference will encompass foster care, hosting, and adoption. How 
is God calling you to be a part of His plan? Are you ready to hear Him? The following 
is an account of just one family stepping out in faith to love the most vulnerable. 


In November of 2005 and December of 2006 my children were born to their first mom. 

Too much of life happened to them between then and the time they were placed in to our 
hands in May of 2009. It wouldn't be until October of 2010, that the courts finally caught up
with our hearts and they were forever home. I had to look up the year the adoption was 
finalized because I can't believe it has just been 5 years.  There are ways it seems so much 
longer and life before those two is hard to remember.In another way it is a bit refreshing to 
think it's only been 5 years and that we've come a long way in a short time. It's no wonder 
some of the struggles we have gone through in the past year and I am once again reminded 
of the pain and grief that the redemptive story of adoption is birthed from. 

There is not a single thing I would change. I read back over a journal I kept at the time and 

theemotions gurgle to the surface and my eyes sting with tears. I am reminded how hard we 
fought for their momma to be their momma. I am reminded how sad it made me that she felt 
she couldn't and how angry it made me that she didn't have the skills to be. I am reminded how
deeply it hurt that the system had failed yet another. I am reminded how much I loved and
respected her and how it conflicted directly with my all-to-human judgement's at times. I 
remember my inability to understand that her life experiences could have only led her here. 
I will always be thankful she chose life for them and selflessly broke the cycle. I am reminded
how small they were, just 2 and 3 years old. I remember how brave, how open and willing to 
accept our love these little children were. I am reminded how scared and angry and filled 
with an intense sadness they were that it seemed to seep from their  souls. I am reminded how
immediately I loved them. I am in awe of how much our 3 other children welcomed them in 
and protected and embraced and hurt for them. I am reminded how very much in love I was
watching my husband father the fatherless. 

Becoming a mother to two grieving children is the hardest thing I've ever done. Stepping

in to the place of a mother they loved....they still love. Truthfully, sharing their love with her
has been hard I often tell them they have enough love in their hearts for both of us and they do, 
but it's only honest to say that their are moments that has stung a little. The juggling of emotions
that comes with this journey never ceases to surprise me. One moment I can be crushed by the 
weight of the burdens they've carried and yet others, felt normal frustrations at the fallout that 
creates in their lives. This journey has brought me the greatest moments of joy and taken me to 
the bottom of a cavernous pit. Our adoption story has made me feel utterly alone at times and others surrounded by God's love for us, often shown by the amazing friends and family in our lives. It has
left me questioning the brokenness of this world and in amazement at it's beauty and grace. It has 
given my children a family but at the loss of their first mom. It has given me more than I could ever
measure. 

I had no idea what to expect then. I still don't. I have a sign that hangs in the kitchen that states 

"never a dull moment" and it's obnoxiously true. Each stage of development greets grief
differently. But at the same time, each new day is one more day they know the security of a family
the gentleness a father should bring. They are loving, kind, compassionate children that know Jesus. 
They are worthy. They are valued. The hard has been hard but the alternative isn't an option. She 
was their first mom but I am their last. She is the mother that gave them life but I, I am their mom
for life. I am incomprehensibly thankful that we gave our yes to God...that when it made no earthly 
sense at all...when the finances weren't there....when we already had a full house...when we were in 
the middle of facing a layoff... that we just trusted God to have us. I am so thankful that this time I
didn't blow it and let my fears win or my intellect or my feelings of self doubt. I am so thankful for 
stepping out in faith, for giving Him our whole yes and for jumping feet first in to the craziest ride 
of our lives. Happy Forever Family Day, Family.  

What an honor it is to be your mom.