The Time I Had Margaritas with Father G

SO THIS HAPPENED.

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If you’ve been around here long, like since last week, you know Father Greg Boyle is one of my favorite humans. No doubt I quote him nearly as often as the Bible and my very last post circled around his theory on burn out and expectations.

I have known for a couple years Father G and I have a mutual friend, Nate. Nate has shared stories about G with me and knows of my fondness for him. This past week at the Christian Community Development Association National Conference in Los Angeles, Nate made the mistake of telling me he and his wife had dinner plans with Father G.

I channeled my inner four-year old and begged to tag along. I was teasing, sort of. Nate explained they had already invited a family member and this was really more of an intimate gathering among friends. Nate is possibly the most invitational man on the planet, so I knew his kind no meant it really was a small gathering of friends.

Oh well.

The next afternoon I saw Jenny, Nate’s wife, as I was walking through the halls of the Westin. After chatting a bit she mentioned she was waiting to go to dinner. I teased that I tried to invite myself along but it didn’t work. She smiled and said, “Come!” Her brother decided he wanted to attend a breakout session on immigration, which meant I could go to dinner in his stead. 

I’m certain there were angels and dancing right there in the hallway.

//

We met Father G, who I will henceforth refer to as G – ’cause we’re now on a first name basis, at Homeboy just before 5 o’clock. If you’ve never been to Homeboy Industries, imagine a large, bright, two-story building crawling with homeboys and homegirls of every size, shape, and color. There are kids of homies. There are homies in wheelchairs. There are huge windows and glass walls. We walked in and were greeted by a homie sitting right inside the door, like an angel sitting at the city gates.

Slam

He introduced himself as Slam and asked if we were with InnerChange. I’m still not sure how he knew. Nate and Jenny started chatting with him, one thing led to another, and it turns out they know about 50 of the same people. We invite Slam back to the conference with us, and to join us later that night for s’mores at one of our LA coworkers house. Nate and Slam exchange numbers and we commit to seeing each other later.

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My friends introduce me to G and his “baby Jesuit” Marcos.

We head out the door to walk to our dinner location. The homies are gathered outside. It’s quitting time, and on a Friday night no less, but they are still hanging out. Each homie greets G with a hug and an, “I love you, Pop.” They share a brief update. Where they’ve been, what they’re up to, when they’ll see him next. There’s an older, sun-faded, dark blue mini-van parked up the street. A couple little boys hop out with their dad. They look to be about six and eight. All three hug G. “Mi hijo!” he says to them. Apparently they had just eaten barbecue and one of the boys accidentally wipes his face on G’s shirt during their embrace. His dad tries to wipe it off with a napkin but it’s no use. G just laughs.

He tells every homie he loves them.

It’s this first 100 or so yards of our walk I begin to realize, he just is exactly who he is. In the book, the interviews, speeches, documentary. That man is the real man. Just exactly who he is.

We walk a few blocks to a Mexican market of sorts. G greets everyone – the hostess, our waiter, other waiters – with a hug and kiss on the cheek. He asks for a table in the back room and we take our seats. He invites me to sit next to him.

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My friends tell G about the Light Breaks Forth Book Club, and how I give his book away to as many people as I can. I told him about our plans to start a woodworking business in our neighborhood, to offer job training and employment to our neighbors, to which he replied, “Yeah, I think that’ll work.”

We talk about skid row and Georgetown University’s move towards reparations. He asks Nate and Jenny about their kids, about Guatemala, about life. There were no tweetable quotes or mind-blowing ideologies; just an ordinary dinner among ordinary friends.

The Time I Met Father G

I thought I was playing it cool, but I’m making this bug-eyed “I can’t believe this!” face in every photo, so, apparently not.

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We walk back to Homeboy and G stopped about a block away. He says something in Spanish and I recognize only one word – dios. He marveled at the activity on the second floor. It was packed with people. Through the floor to ceiling windows we watch as silhouettes move about above us. “I just love seeing that.” G says. He explains the group is an AA meeting. “Everybody who’s nobody.”

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We cross the street, G tells us they inherited the AA group from a church who kicked them out.

Homies stand around outside, smoking, laughing, putting my tattoos to shame. We’re greeted by a homie named Adrian. Adrian is wearing a plain white t-shirt and the broadest shoulders I’ve ever seen on a human. G introduces him as his hero.

I’ve read dozens if not hundreds of G’s stories about homies. Those stories have touched my life in innumerable ways. But that night, standing in the shadows of everybody who’s nobody, I got to hear a homie tell a story about G.

Adrian told us about his first meeting with G, how G asked if he wanted a job. Adrian answered affirmatively. G went on to ask if he would do anything for him and he said yes, of course he would. G said, “I want you to get rid of that tattoo on your face.” Adrian said he agreed, but tells us he was thinking “No way,” along with a few expletives. Adrian’s plan was to play G.

G stands up and invites Adrian to follow him to the hallway. He explains there are about 1,000 people on the wait list to have tattoos removed, but since Adrian is his favorite, G bumped him to the front of the list. Adrian had his first removal session right. then.

Our small group erupts into laughter.

We ask Adrian what he’s up to now and he recounts finishing the Homeboy Industries program, going back to school and working at Volunteers of America. Then he says, “And yesterday I got an acceptance email from Harvard.”

HARVARD.

Adrian’s smile spreads broad as his shoulders across his face.

I’m sure I had a look of surprise on my own face; I think we all did. All of us expect G. Adrian pulls his cell phone out of his pocket and shows G the email. G nods and says, “I told you you were my hero.”

And that’s exactly who G is. Just a man loving people into their destiny. 

The Time I Met Father G

S’mores with the InnerChange crew and Slam. He’s hard to notice.

expectations

It became apparent: I wasn’t falling asleep anytime soon. My first attempt to soothe insomnia: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Fudge Chip Ice Cream and Shannan Martin‘s new book Falling Free. Shannan’s words are hardly the type to put me to sleep, but a balm for my weary soul, with a side of ice cream, seemed like a good place to start.

 

As the clock ticked toward the midnight hour, I decided to move on to phase two: melatonin and an uninterrupted hot shower. I stepped over a smug cockroach in the hallway, who scurried into the closet before I could scoop him up in a wad of toilet paper. Cockroaches in our walls help us stand in solidarity with our neighbors, I told myself phlegmatically. I reached into the shower to start the water, knowing it would take a good 6-8 minutes to actually be hot. This phenomenon is still a mystery to me, given the 100+ degree heat index. Shouldn’t the water already be hot? The sound of running water woke my husband who appeared in the bathroom asking why I was taking a shower at midnight. As I explained my desire for a long, hot, uninterrupted shower, I felt myself growing slightly annoyed by his intrusion.

 

My shower routine is intentional and efficient, and if you asked and I was being honest, I’d tell you my whole life is that way, because that’s what I want to people to think of me. First, I co-wash my hair (that’s wash it with conditioner, for those unfamiliar), then I let the conditioner sit while I brush my teeth, shave, wash my body, rinse conditioner, wash my face, and put in round two of conditioner which I leave in, if you must know. It’s strategic. Purposeful. Smart. It goes the way I want it to.

 

As I washed my hair, I thought about something Father Greg Boyle said at the Global Homeboy Network earlier this month. He said burnout does not exist. His theory is the feeling of burnout stems from having expectations of others and, when those expectations go unmet, we internalize that unmetness and take the person’s actions or inaction personally. Then, often, we do more stuff to try to change them.

 

I like this theory, and not only because I think Father G is one of the twenty-four elders. It tracks with what I’m learning from my counselors and research and reading and life about controlling other humans and being responsible to people and not for them.

 

But practically speaking, I’m not sure how it rolls out. I mean, it sounds great for a Jesuit priest working with ex-convicts but for a wife? A mom? No expectations? As in zero?

 

//

 

Somewhere between lathering and rinsing my Trader Joe’s Tea Tree body wash (Yes, there’s a theme), I heard the bathroom door open and assumed it was our ridiculously cute and equally delinquent (foster) dog who can open all our fancy French door knobs that turn upward in the wrong direction; but instead I saw my tiniest human. She stood outside the shower half asleep in a sagging diaper, her usual two fingers planted firmly in her mouth. She doesn’t talk but is not silent, making unrecognizable noises the way only half-asleep children and rabid frogs do.

 

To my surprise, I am not frustrated by this interruption.

 

//

 

I lay in bed, my doctor’s words swirling around in my head. “Sleep is the first thing to go,” she told me, two years ago as I sat in her cold, small exam room, surrounded by my four young children. They were doing their best to stay focused on coloring sheets and beat up Golden Books likely covered in germs from the 1980’s, which is to say, they were bouncing off the walls.

 

When you’re anxious, sleep is the first thing to go. When anxiety builds like the tower of Babble, desperate to see what God is up to, sleep is the first thing to go. When the very air itself is sucked from your lungs and you long to hear from the One who spoke the world into being with His breath, sleep is the first thing to go. When literal walls are crumbling on houses just blocks away and the cockroaches are no longer a token in solidarity but a threat to families staying together, sleep is the first thing to go.

 

So I release my expectation to sleep.
 
//

 

In July we spent a week in Lovejoy, Georgia with a hundred like-minded folks from InnerChange and Dr. John Perkins. It was an intimate gathering, providing ample opportunity to listen and learn from Dr. Perkins and our other speakers. I sat around cafeteria style tables, listening to my friends and co-workers ask him questions about living through the civil rights movement, about today’s racial tensions, about #alllivesmatter. He was always gracious but never soft with his answers.

And his preaching. Oh, his preaching. It is otherworldly.

On his last morning, he talked about three different roads in the Bible:

The road to Emmaus.
The road to Damascus.
And the road to Jericho.

One of my kids lost their mind on the way home from Georgia. Honestly, I don’t blame them. After a month long road trip, over 12 hours of driving that day alone, within a few hours of home… they lost it.

In an effort to spare the others, I pulled over on the side of I-95, pulled this kid out of the van and headed for the ditch. In all the ways this kid struggles, they struggled there, in the ditch on the side of the highway. Semi’s 30 feet away were no competition for my kid’s lungs. These are the lungs of a survivor. The lungs of a child whose voice went unheard for years. But here, on the side of the highway, they will not be outdone by semi-trucks, or the threat of alligators.

This child’s screaming causes my heart to pound, my blood pressure to rise, my stomach to knot. Sometimes I hear them screaming when I lay in bed at night not sleeping and when I actually shower alone. Even when there is no screaming, I hear screaming. I suppose I have come to expect it.

//

I did not expect to be on the side of the highway. I expected to be an hour closer to home. My expectations and lack of sleep and countless hours inside a minivan brought me to the brink of my sanity. Simply put, I broke.

In my breaking, I joined the screaming child on my hip, flips flops now long gone in the knee high south Florida brush.  I screamed at God. I wanted to know why I listened to Dr. Perkins preach for seven full days about roads and yet, there I was, standing in a ditch.

I’ve never really thought before about who my child(ren) screams at. Often they scream at me, but really, I’m only a reminder of the primal void they feel. Of the lack and the rejection. Of their unmet expectations.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I cannot save any of them – my children, my husband, my neighbors – from their past, from their present, from the future. It was never my job.

Our choice always is the same: save the world or savor it. And I vote for savoring it. And, just because everything is about something else, if you savor the world, somehow — go figure — it’s getting saved. – Father Greg Boyle

 

the ministry of words

My friend Danielle and I had vastly different childhoods. She grew up trying to please God, I wanted nothing to do with him. But somehow, a few decades later, we ended up in nearly the same space  – living on the margins of society with our families.

As of yesterday, her first book has been published – Assimilate or Go Home, Notes From a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith, is a collection of poetic essays from her decade long journey of working with and living among refugees.

Assimilate or Go Home

I cried when I got Danielle’s email asking if I would be on the launch team for Assimilate or Go Home. It might’ve had something to do with the fact that I was at an airport, which for me is equal or worse to being on life support in the ICU. I’m certain death is eminent.

I digress.

Danielle outlined a few prompts for us to choose from, should we write a post about her book. Of course that’s the point of a launch team, but she’s very unassuming and modest, this one.

No problem. Write a post inspired by a book I’m sure to love? That I can do.

But you guys, I have tried for the last week and I just cannot do it. I have two shitty first drafts, as Anne Lammott would say.. One prompt “the ministry of…” and the other “I use to want to change the world but…” are both things I can write on. Both things I have half written draft posts on, but for the life of me I can’t bring them home.

Last night I realized why.

How do you use words in support of someone else’s words, when words are clearly the gift God has given that person to impact your life and others? When each time you read theirs you sit in awe that there are other humans with similar lives and thoughts and passions and people seeing the world and walking through it in much the same way you are, writing all the way?

Danielle writes often about unrecognized ministries, like the ministry of playing video games with awkward adolescent boys. The ministry of bringing takeout food to people whose baby is very sick. The ministry of picking up empty chip wrappers at the park. The ministry of sending hilarious and inspirational text messages. The ministry of making an excellent cup of coffee.

Hers is baking cake. But hers is also words.

Danielle’s words comfort me like few others do. Her ability to see the world as Jesus does, from a place I believe he would have resided, and put it into achingly beautiful words is a precious gift. It is an unrecognized ministry, but I hope it won’t be unrecognized for long. (And truly, you’ve probably read her writing online before, but isn’t paper fun and better?)

Assimilate of Go Home is now available from My Target (aka Amazon) and can be yours for less than $9. People, WHAT, $9?! If $9 is too steep for you at the moment, I’ll be giving a copy away today over on Instagram.

Thank you Danielle, for your ministry of baking cakes and writing words. For your willingness to cut out a piece of your heart and put it into the pages of a book for all of us to see. Thank you for sharing your own doubts, your own fears, your own brokenness. Thank you for loving your neighbors well, honoring their stories, and inspiring me to do the same. You are moving the Kingdom and writing us all home.

implicit bias and the angry black woman narrative

For the past couple weeks I’ve been reading, A LOT. I’ve clicked every article shared by folks I admire and respect. One such article was written by a black woman to white people. She said we should stop talking to our white friends about their racism, and instead talk to them about our racism.

Good point, I thought. And moved on to the next article.

//

Sunday morning before church we attempted family pictures. I know, I know, small children and large families and Sunday mornings don’t mix, but it was the only chance we had with one of our favorite photographers while in town, so we went for it.

We sat in front of a mural on the sidewalk of a busy street. Our friend/photographer stood in the road, and her assistant/husband stood a little further out, watching for cars, occasionally letting her know one was coming or waving at the cars who avoided her by getting into the far lane.

As I was sitting there on the sidewalk, uncomfortably contorting my legs so two squirmy girls could sit on my lap and one of the boys could smash the blood from my left foot, I saw a red car drive by at an above-the-speed-limit-speed. Our friend/assistant waved at them, and I saw someone in the car wave back. I wasn’t sure if the waves were friendly or hostile gestures, and didn’t care much, until I noticed the red car reversing.

From about half a block away, on a one way street, they were making their way back to our little Sunday morning photo session. As they approached, I could see three people in the car. It looked like a mom and her teenage children. They were black.

I immediately prepared myself for the worst. My mind went to a place in the future where the woman would yell at my friend for waving at her, assuming he was telling her to slow down. I imagined her commenting on our family, saying something about how we don’t have any right to raise black kids. I thought she might tell us we don’t know what we’re doing and aren’t qualified. I imagined my husband trying to calm her down while I distracted the kids from curse words and screaming.

Do you know what she said?

“I just want to tell y’all that looks beautiful! That just looks so good! Is that your family? Y’all are a beautiful family. What a beautiful family!”

Even now, I cannot type those words without tears filling my eyes.

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The narrative I expected to play out was the “angry black woman” narrative. You probably know the one. A black woman gets angry and screams and cusses at everyone within earshot. Turns out, the “angry black woman” narrative dates back to the early 1800’s.

I didn’t know I held that belief about black women until I was sitting there on the sidewalk holding a future black woman.

That narrative was subconsciously hanging around in my mind, waiting to ambush me the moment I saw that red car reverse. And by the way, no black woman has ever spoken any of those words to me. Ever. 

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This my friends, is implicit bias. It is racism at it’s smoothest. It is the undercurrent of our society, writing the narrative we hear in our heads when someone who doesn’t look like us approaches on the sidewalk or appears on the screen. And our screens are a HUGE part of the problem – see video clip below. It happens to all of us. All. the. time.

We owe it to our brothers and sisters of color to actively fight against what our society has tells us about them. As Believers, we must crack open our Bibles to soak up what God says, hold it against the media and stand on the side of God’s Word and His people. 

None of us are exempt from implicit bias, even those of us raising children of color and living in all black neighborhoods, ahem. BUT the good news is, we can change the narrative that plays in our own minds. Not only can we, but we have a responsibility to do so.

I’m praying we are faithful.

 

 

 

(Wondering what your implicit bias is when it comes to dark skin tones verses light ones? This implicit bias test from Harvard can tell you.)

*Photos via Hayley Moss Photography

ask me your stupid white people questions

I’ve had a post rattling around in my head for several weeks now. Was it when I was diagnosed with PTSD? Or when I got addicted to started using Voxer?

I’m not sure, but the post I was writing in my mind was about making my world smaller. About my need to cut out all the noise. I was going to tell you how I unsubscribed from all the emails, because really, I can’t afford to shop those sales anyway. And how I unfollowed almost every brand on Instagram for the very same reason. How I scaled back my Facebook feed by unfollowing (while still remaining friends with!) pretty much everyone. I unsubscribed from blogs that don’t pertain to justice or homeschooling because that’s all the energy and heart space I have time for these days. How I cut back on podcasts. How I just needed less noise because the needs around me – in my neighborhood and in my own home – were enough.

Then Alton Sterling. Filando Castile. The Dallas Five. And there was so. much. noise. The world felt like it just might implode from it all.

And I took advantage of my white privilege.

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I knew, as I typed those words, I was exercising white privilege. My friends of color cannot unfriend racial injustice – they live it in their everyday lives. As the mother of children of color and a white woman bearing witness to systemic injustice in my black neighborhood, I do too. The difference of course, is I can minimize it. I can choose to avoid folly on Facebook. I can unfriend and unfollow and block people whose hatred I don’t want to expose myself to.

That’s white privilege.

A day does not go by when I am not keenly aware of it. Of the fact that my voice gets more airplay then my neighbors, that because my family owns a vehicle, I’m “above” the other mothers on my block. For the love, I homeschool my kids. If homeschool doesn’t scream privilege, nothing does. I give many of my privileges up. But, I’m learning some are so inherent I cannot put them down no matter how hard I try.

I can’t change the color of my skin. Many days I wish I could. Many days I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. But that’s another post for another day.

//

I’ve thought a lot in the last week about how I’ve exercised my privilege online. And how I’ve added to the noise. I’ve thought about what can be “done” to unearth the systemic injustice in our country that runs so deep it infiltrates the very land we walk on. I’ve watched as white friends ask over and over what they can “do.” It often feels to me like nothing and everything can be done all at once, but this is what I can do:

I will continue to call out racial injustice for what it is (sin) as I see it, when I see it.
I will continue to love my neighbors and friends of color, both in person and online.
I will continue to listen when people of color share their stories and experiences with me.
I will continue to affirm them by declaring #blacklivesmatter.
I will continue to educate myself on the history of our nation and racial injustices around the world.
I will continue to teach my children about the imago Dei and the inherent value in every single human being because all were made in the image of God.
I will continue to seek justice in the daily lives of my neighbors.
I will continue to be with and not just for my friends of color.

But you know what else?

I will continue to ask stupid questions.
I will continue to piss people off.
I will continue to feel ostracized by both the white and black communities.
I will continue to be misunderstood.
I will continue to feel alone (at times).
I will continue to be called names which shall not be repeated here.

As phrases like “white ally” and “racial reconciliation” float around the blogosphere, I have to admit, I have yet to find an online space where white people can ask stupid questions.

I want to be a safe place for white people to ask stupid questions.

Ask me all your stupid white people questions.

Let me be really clear: I am not an expert on all things color or race or injustice. I am not a historical expert or expert of anything. But I’ve asked stupid questions – lots of them – and I’ve listened and I have been and continue to learn. I’ve seen racial injustice first hand. I’ve seen The New Jim Crow come to life in my neighborhood and I desperately want white people to join the fight against it. I don’t want to watch video after video on Facebook where my friends of color ask where white people are. I don’t want to read the heartbreaking words from my sisters who feel like we white folks don’t care about them. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow to another person’s name becoming a hashtag.

I know this small act won’t change the world, but I do believe it’s a prophetic demonstration. I do believe in being stubborn about hope. I do believe, no matter how dark the world is, that the Kingdom can actually come and God’s plan to bring it through His people is still being worked out. I am going to resist a hostile world which says justice and love and mercy and unity can’t be possible, that hoping and working for a better world because of Jesus is foolishness. I’m going to be stubborn about Love.

So ask me your stupid white people questions. I might not know the answer, I’ll probably send you some homework, and it’s likely I’ll quote the Bible. But I won’t judge you (at least not too much) and I genuinely want to come alongside you. My email is lindsy.wallace@gmail.com.

I would prefer you email me so we can have some back and forth dialogue where you feel free to ask your questions. You can leave your questions in the comments, although I can’t guarantee someone won’t leave a snarky response because, THE INTERNET, but I promise to delete any hateful remarks.

Be stubborn about Love today Friends.

rain

It was a humid Thursday and we were running late, as we do. I walk-jogged across the parking lot, one of my littles trailing behind. We rushed into the small room where we weekly come to talk about things no child should. There is the stereotypical couch, and big squishy chairs. Floral patterns mix with fake flowers to create an early 90’s feel.

“How was the week?’ is the question that inevitably breaks through the pleasantries. I mumble some version of the same thing I’ve mumbled for weeks. It was bad. The flavor of bad slightly different than the week before and the week before that one… “Bad” days blurring together.

//

I’ve been longing for rain lately but couldn’t put my finger on why. Now that “summer” is here (was it ever not?), it rains every afternoon. The first downpour freeing from my subconscious that I completely disagree with Alanis Morissette – rain isn’t the only time I’m happy; it gives me permission not to be.

Rain gives us permission to admit we’re not ok.

The cycle of rain-evaporation-rain-evaporation conspire together to pour out the cleansing we so desperately need. Evaporation takes place so slowly, so tenderly, we forget it even occurs. We fail to remember that, in order for the rain to fall, water first has to leave Earth and enter the clouds. The soil sucked dry and our souls parched. Dust flying in our eyes and the stench of injustice, trauma, oppression, and pain burning our nostrils. Uncomfortable in our own skin, as it withers from dehydration; it’s in the dry dessert we begin to thirst.

Then, rain. Washed. Cleansed. Permission to admit we aren’t ok. Permission to admit that we, like the woman at the well, need living water. The showers wash away the muck and mire that sticks to our hearts and souls; a side affect of living in the world.

People argue over whether or not it rained on Earth before Noah’s flood. Either way, God sent  rain to wash the land clean. His heart was broken by the evil He saw. He grieved. His solution was to start over, with water that fell from the sky.

I think maybe that’s why I like rain so much.

 

 

Summer Reads

Today is the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, which means most of you are now feeling the heat we’ve been feeling down here since, oh, last summer. As temperatures and humidity rise, I hope your schedule is slowing down. We’re preparing to spend a few weeks visiting family and friends up north and these are the books I’m packing in my bag.

(I’ve already read Follow Me to Freedom, and am halfway through a few others, but no, I likely won’t make it through all of these. I just like to have choices.)

Follow Me to Freedom, Shane Claiborne and John M. Perkins
This book is a must read for anyone wanting to lead others to Freedom.

As some point, especially as Christians, we say with Paul, ‘To live is Christ, to die is gain…’ If we die, so what? We believe in resurrection. We’ll dance on injustice till they kill us… Then we’ll dance on streets of gold. Many Christians live in such fear that it’s as if they don’t really, I mean really, believe in resurrection. – Shane Claiborne

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown
I gotta be honest, I can’t get into Brene’s writing. I love her quotables, I love her in soundbites, I love her interviews, but her books are not my jam. I’ve skimmed the first six chapters and just can’t, so I’m gonna try to go deep on Chapter 7, Wholehearted Parenting and call it a day.

Turn My Mourning into Dancing, Henri Nouwen
“Solace without platitudes,” I am about halfway through this and really enjoying it. This book has been on our shelves for years and this is my first time cracking it open. As ironic as it sounds, I am thoroughly enjoying this book.

Evangelical ≠ Republican… or Democrat, Lisa Sharon Harper
This is the book I currently cannot put down. Since meeting Lisa earlier this month and having the true pleasure of hearing her speak, I have been tracking down everything she has written and taught. The list is long and this just happened to be the first book that arrived from the library. This book was published in 2008, but incredibly relevant to 2016. I am fascinated by the history of evangelicalism she shares in this book. (I’m looking forward to adding her newest book, The Very Good Gospel, to my early fall reading list.)

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, Beverly Daniel Tatum, PH.DBeverly Tatum seeks to answer the question, “Is this (cafeteria) self-segregation a problem we should try to fix, or a coping strategy we should support? Using real-life examples and the latest research, Tatum presents strong evidence that straight talk about our racial identities-whatever they may be-is essential if we are serious about facilitating communication across racial and ethnic divides. We have waited far too long to begin our conversations about race. This remarkable book, infused with great wisdom and humanity, has already helped hundreds of thousands of readers figure out where to start.”

“Jesus for President”, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw
Because #electionprobs.

The Whole Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
This is another that has been on our bookshelf for a couple years. I have a hard time with parenting books. I’ve read a LOT of them over the years, and most seem either completely unrealistic or too much rainbows and unicorns. The Whole Brain Child is one I continually hear recommended and summer seems like a good time to give it a try.

Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman
This book has been referenced in about a dozen other books I’ve read in the last year and is credited with “shaping the civil rights movement and changing our nation’s history forever” so definitely a summer read.

Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott
I might not make it to this one, but I figure it would be nice to throw it in for a few laughs.

Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen
I started reading this one last fall because I was disappointed in our home school curriculum’s telling of American history and the lack of representation and acknowledgement of people of color in the timeline of American history at all. At the time, I read along with what our curriculum was teaching to ensure I was passing on truth to my kids. I hope to read it from cover to cover this summer. This is another fascinating book I’m thankful to have come across. I was completely uninterested in American history in high school. Now I know why. (HINT: It was a whitewashed lie.)

What are you reading this summer? Let me know in the comments! 

cleaning up for God + a scandalously inclusive Savior

My four big kids are in VBS this week (can I get an Amen for VBS?!) and Monday morning they came filing into the living room. I looked them up and down, saying things like;

“That shirt has a hole in it, go change.”
“Your clothes don’t match. Keep the shorts or keep the shirt, but pick something that actually goes together.”
“Oh geez, you have dread locks growing in the back of your head! When was the last time you brushed your hair?! Have you been using conditioner? What is going on?”

I was cleaning my kids up to send them to church. But I wasn’t just cleaning them up to send them to church, I was cleaning them up to send them to the Church. To church people. God’s people. I was trying to make them presentable for the people of God.

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In the wake of Sunday’s deadly mass shooting, in the tidal wave that is our current presidential election, in the midst of my own family not being ok, it hit me – we Christians do this all the time. We try to clean up our act before coming to God. It’s no wonder then, when people outside the Church see this, they either follow suit into a life of fake smiles and Sunday morning “Fine’s,” or they realize they’ll never measure up and don’t even try.

This is not the freedom Jesus came for friends.

When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, there were no instructions to get it together first. None.

Jesus called Simon (Peter) and Andrew while they were fishing. He says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” I will make you – not go change your shirt you smell like fish, brush your raggedy hair, read this book on discipleship and then we’ll talk.

Follow me, and I will mold you and I will form you and I will grow you into the men I created you to be.

A few chapters later, Jesus, after cleansing a leper, healing a whole bunch of people, calming a storm and casting out some demons – but we’ll get to that in a minute – calls Matthew, the tax collector. (If there were a soundtrack to the Bible, I imagine some sketchy music playing as the camera pans to bring Matthew into frame. Can you hear it?)

Jesus sees Matthew and says, “Hey, come hang with me.” Tax collectors in that day were notoriously corrupt. They were thieves and swindlers who took advantage of those below them on the socio-economic ladder. They were also despised by the Jews, making Jesus’ pick of Matthew both scandalous and offensive.

Jesus didn’t seem to care too much what the religious people thought of his choice of friends. The very next thing he does is sit down with a whole bunch of tax collectors and sinners and eat with them. And back in the day, eating with people was a big deal.

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We follow a Savior who is scandalously inclusive.

He touched lepers, shared meals with tax collectors, hung out with sinners, healed the demon possessed, played with children, loved immigrants and widows and the disabled.

That’s what I’d call a pretty eclectic social circle.

One thing Jesus teaches us is love never looks like judgement. It never does. Love never looks like creating margins, separating “us” from “them” or those “inside” from those “outside.” It never looks like the people of God deciding who gets to sit at the table of God because there is always room at the foot of the cross.

Jesus saves some of us out of our muck and mire, and some of us He saves in it. Some people have a Saul/Paul conversion experience. Others don’t. Frankly, that’s God’s business. And His business can be slow

Here’s something I’ve learned about God’s slow work: changed behavior comes from a changed heart. When Jesus walked the earth he was always always always concerned about a person’s heart.

How are hearts changed? By love. When people who have never belonged and never fit in, people who have been pushed outside, told to clean up, sober up, thin up, and straighten up experience the never stopping never giving up love of God – hearts are changed.

Friends, behavior modification is not freedom. It’s not what Jesus died for. He came to set us free from sin and shame and Church, we have got to stop shaming each other with this idea that we must clean up before coming to God. We must lead the charge because there are millions of people watching us live lives veiled in “fine,” hell-bent on pretending everything is ok.

It starts with us.

Please hear me: It is ok, to not be ok.

What need do we have for a Savior if we are all fine? Jesus came to heal the sick and we have got to own up to the fact that it is us. We are sick, we need a Savior and we need each other. And we do not have to clean ourselves up first.

You do not have to wear the right clothes to come to Jesus.
You don’t have to brush your hair.
You don’t have to know enough about the Bible.
You don’t have to quit smoking.
You don’t have to be “good.”
You don’t have to stop cussing.
You don’t have to volunteer for every dang thing your church does.
You don’t have to get straight.
You don’t have to stop drinking.
You don’t have to be ok.

Just come. Come and follow Him. Trust Him to take care of the rest. Because He will.

What No One Told Me About Motherhood

Monday was a day, ya know what I mean? We were all sleep deprived from a lively weekend that included desserts and late bedtimes. By noon I was ready to run away. William convinced me to stick around but things didn’t improve. One kid threatened to run away himself, one kid said the only person in the world who isn’t stupid is my husband, and another refused to do his school work. I posted something on social media about feeling slighted in not receiving the appropriate motherhood orientation and the response was overwhelming. You guys, there’s a whole tribe of us struggling through this thing alone. And we shouldn’t be.

Motherhood is damn hard. Like, the hardest thing E V E R. And since I feel like no one told me this, I’ve decided to compile a list of What No One Told Me About Motherhood, and by me, I mean the collective internets. (Shout out to all my awesome social media friends for this wisdom, and for taking the time to share it.)

As someone said on Instagram, support groups for moms should be a daily thing. And they should. So without further ado:

What No One Told Me About Motherhood


#1: Self-regulation is your biggest challenge.
Controlling your own emotions in the face of a tiny tantrumming human is a learned skill. I’m still learning it. Why is this so hard? <— not a rhetorical question. Seriously, why?

Speaking of emotions, as a mother, you now hove zero control over your emotional availability. These people assume you are available all. the. time. Someone on Instagram described this as introvert hell.

#2: Some children think they do not need you.
At all. They will threaten to run away and tell you all about how much they do not need a mother. But you will have to go on caring for their needy little mother-dependent selves. This will make you want to cuss and stop feeding them, but you can’t BECAUSE THEY NEED A MOTHER.

#3: Some kids have mental illnesses.
And you can pray and medicate and counsel and anoint them with oil… But they still have mental illnesses. And that’s just hard. For everyone.

#4: There will be days that feel hopeless.
You will come to the end of yourself and tell your husband you don’t know how to keep mothering, and it will only be noon. No other job description on the planet is as difficult.
And there’s no end in sight. Until there is and I hear it gets worse. (See #21)

#5: You may never sleep again.
My youngest kid is almost four, and still wakes up in the middle of the night expecting it to be day. I have no idea when this stops, but I imagine it will be around the time my oldest starts going out with his friends and missing his curfew. Just a guess.

#6: You will compare yourself to other mothers and question everything you do for your kids.

#7: Loving your kids is a choice.
And sometimes choosing it is hard. I know, I know, you can’t imagine it. Maybe you aren’t a mom yet or your hard is being a human pacifier and dodging blow-out diapers. Pin this for later Dear One.

#8: They are who they are.
Your job is not to change them. Also, you can’t. Their temperament is God given. It’s hard-wired. Character changes, temperament does not… no matter what you do. Your job is to call forth who God made them to be. At the end of the road, you only have control over yourself. (And trust me, that’s enough.)

#9: Kids can be @ssholes.
My Instagram friend Davi said it, not me. But for the record, she’s right. Also, so can I.

#10: There is some ugly junk in your heart.
And it will come out. At exactly the moment you need to extend grace, you will not. At exactly the moment you need to extend patience, you will not. At exactly the moment your children need to see Jesus in you, they will see your sin.

The scariest part is, that ugly junk was in there all along. It is not a side affect of pregnancy or adoption hormones, it’s a symptom of a sinful heart and frankly it has nothing to do with them.

#11: What works for one child does not necessarily work for another.
Why is this? Oh, that’s right, because they’re humans. 

#12: Mama’s don’t get sick days.
AND you may be sick and taking care of everyone else while they are also sick… The days of staying in bed and having someone take care of you are over sister.

#13: If someone messes with your kid, you might kill them.
You just might. Don’t ask me how I know.

#14: We are bearing burdens for our kids as part of growing them to be able to handle their own burdens later.
We can handle life being too hard (sort of, see #1), but our kids can’t. The challenge is we have to bear their burdens AND ours, without sleep. 

#15: You won’t be satisfied with just being “Mama.”
Bad news, you will struggle with identity. You will want to be something way more glamorous, rewarding, and gratifying than “Mama.” You will be frustrated by how much Mama-ing demands of you and how little there is left for sexier ventures.

Good news, you are not going to find your value in motherhood, because it was never meant to satisfy the way Eternity will. Consider this your Pass on wearing the “Contented Mother” mask. Motherhood will not fulfill you because earthly relationships were never meant to fulfill. You can bear your kids’ burdens and do this in-the-trenches work with freedom (read: not perfectly) because you are not enslaved to or dependent on it defining you. (And THAT is dang good news.)

#16: Motherhood might not happen as soon as you thought, or at all. 

#17: You might not be naturally good at it.
Most of us are not naturally self-less. We just aren’t.

#18: Your heart will ache for them.
When others are mean, when their decisions have painful consequences, when hard is hard… Your heart will break right there outside of your body.

#19: Guilt and shame and fear of failure will be near constant.
Guilt and shame and fear will follow you around and threaten to steal every moment of joy. You will need to daily remind Satan that you are not his gal and where to shove his guilt, shame and fear.

#20: Nothing is more sanctifying.
NOTHING. 

#21: It gets harder… and the stakes get higher.
I have to admit, when my friend Julie left this comment on Facebook, I wanted to throw my hands over my eyes and scream NO! NO!, but then I was grateful for her honesty. And I won’t be able to say no one told me…

#22: You will never pee alone again.
Or, at least for a very long time.

#23: You are not alone.
You are NOT the only one who doesn’t have lovey dovey feelings about your kid or your role as mom all the time. I don’t know why we don’t talk about this more, but we don’t. I suppose this post is an effort to change that. 

It takes a village to raise a mother.

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Sometimes, being honest and encouraging feel like opposing actions. I don’t think they are. I think honesty is encouraging. I think sometimes the most encouraging we can be is to just be real.

I hope this collective wisdom from the internet gives you the courage and permission you need to be real about motherhood. That way the mamas behind us can’t say we didn’t tell them…

What’s something no one told you about being a mother?

goals

goals

So many things I knew a year or two ago I no longer know. I am far less sure of almost all areas of life but I am most assuredly sure of Life itself. I have seen and heard and experienced things I cannot unsee, unhear or unexperience. They are now forever a part of who I am, having molded me into the woman God created, and continues to create, me to be.

There’s a lot of talk among friends and coworkers about the words we use to describe those we work with. We all agree labels for people are not the way to go, but words are the currency humans use to communicate, so how do we do that in a way that is dignifying, not dehumanizing?

The danger of some words is they imply our goal is to change that particular attribute about a person.

For example, we work with “the poor”.

It has only recently struck me that in saying we work with “the poor”, we could possibly, albeit unintentionally, be communicating there is something wrong with “the poor” that needs fixing. We could be communicating we are working to change the fact that they are “poor,” and because of our cultural context and American idealism, I fear this communication gap may be taking place.

Wordsmithing, maybe, but hang with me.

I think this is important because it stems from and feeds into our “we can fix you” white middle-class culture. (If you aren’t part of that culture, you’ve surely seen it in action. If you need to see it again in parody form, White Savior Barbie is there for you.)

Last weekend I spoke at a fundraiser for one of my coworkers and afterwards was approached by a man who wanted to “brainstorm” solutions for some of the needs mentioned during our presentation. A year or two ago I would have welcomed his thoughts. Now I know the slow work of God is not mine to control. And I know men like this know very little to nothing about my neighbor’s actual lives and it takes a Holy Spirit size dose of humility to enter into these brainstorm session as an outsider.

Ideas started flying, all in the vein of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” ideology. I tried my best to explain the challenges my neighbors face when, applying for a job for example. Each time this man suggested something else, equally as unattainable as his last suggestion.

The problem with this kind of “improve your situation by your own efforts” thinking is, it’s not a universal truth. Contrary to what my personal upbringing taught me, all opportunities are not created equal.

The opportunities afforded me as a 15-year-old – a stable home and family life, parents with business connections, transportation and expendable time to transport their teenage daughter to and from work – landed me my first job, which led to a solid string of employment, until I chose to become a stay-at-home mom. The opportunities afforded my neighbors at 15 years of age – a traumatic home and family life, impoverished living conditions, neglectful and abusive parents which often leads to self medicating, promiscuity and teenage pregnancy – are incomparable. Expecting teenagers from these drastically different backgrounds to end up in the same place, without longstanding and intentional prayer and relationship, is insane.

Most of us think the goal of introducing the poor, whether overseas or in America, to Jesus is synonymous with climbing the economic ladder.

Friends, that is not the goal.

Knowing Jesus is not correspondent to having wealth, or even to not being poor. I think most of the world gets this, but as Americans, particularly my brand of American, we tend to forget.

The goal, with any human being made in the image of God (NEWS FLASH: That’s all of them.) is to empower and encourage our neighbors to be the men and women God created them to be.

The goal is to call forth the imago Dei in them. To invite them to look into the face of Jesus and ask, What do you think about me? The goal, is to walk alongside them, until the wheels fall off, reminding them every day, that He who began a good work in them is going to bring it to completion, one glorious day.

Our goal is to remind them God delighted in them all along.

They may or may not move into a higher economic bracket.

And the rest of us need to be ok with that.

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