Erasing History

Comments on Charlottesville and beyond…

 

The past few days have brought, yet again, disturbing images of hatred, violence, destruction and death as our country appears to fall even more divided along racial lines.  There is a culture of rage fueling the dark souls who are all too willing to unleash the chaos within on any fellow human being different from themselves.

We can look at these “groups” and dissect their “missions” under a microscope, but it seems as if racism is this magnetic particle which draws the extremists together and incites violence.  Extremists (anyone who advocates extreme views or actions) are excellent recruiters…disenfranchised?  We’ve got the answer, belong to us.  We will nurture your hate.  We will feed your frenzy.  We will activate your aggression.  We will help you hate.

Last night, I watched a video of a confederate statue being torn down by a mob.  It brought to mind the day I watched the statue of Saddam Hussein toppled.  Perhaps, at that moment, there was elation in the victory, but it doesn’t change a thing.  The dead are still dead.  The war rages on.

Slavery still happened.

Racism still exists.

Erasing history is an exercise in ignorance.

I feel as though I need to give some reference to the fact that I am the matriarch of a transracial family.  Our experiences would require another post or two but please know, I write from a place of knowing.  Initially, I would have been on the burn-it-all side of the argument, but is that just me wanting to be a “good” white woman?  Wanting to stomp out racism is a good thing, I just don’t believe this will help.

I would love to eradicate what happened, but I can’t.  I can’t give my children the richness of their heritage without teaching them what their ancestors faced in this country.   I also can not understand my black brothers and sisters without visiting not only history, but the present,  through their experiences. We need to ask ourselves:

  • Does removing the Confederate flag or statues make a difference?
  • Does it make us a less-racist society or does it whitewash our evils?
  • Is it an act of political correctness or true repentance?
  • Does removing the past protect our future?
  • Does it change the heart of a man?

The sad truth is, nothing about banning the Confederate flag or tearing down statues makes the United States of America any more united.

Erasing history is an exercise in futility.

As a heartbroken and burdened Christ-follower, I’m instructed to bring it all into the light of the gospel.  Jesus.  Our perfect and innocent God, executed on a symbol of shame.  A cross where criminals met their end.  A cross designed to prolong suffering and death.  And yet, we hold on to that symbol of shame over 2,000 years later.  Why?  Because HIS story is our story.

So it is with confederate symbols.  For my daughter, that history is her story.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you would have told the disciples that future Christ-followers would be hanging crosses on their necks and walls, tattooing them on their bodies and placing them on their alters, they would have never believed it.  Yet, here we are.

Erasing history in an exercise in dishonor

What are we to do?

Whether you live in Charlottesville or a place far from it, you are responsible.  Responsible for starting hard conversations.  Responsible for building bridges with those different from you.  Responsible for speaking out whenever you hear or see injustice.  Responsible for educating yourself.  Responsible for uncovering personal biases. Responsible for tearing down our own symbols of racism.

In 100 years:

  • What symbols will we have erected or made holy that future generations will be at war over?
  • What are we elevating now that will serve to divide or disgrace those who come behind?
  • Which of our words will reverberate in the minds of our children?

A love-laced legacy is lasting.

 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up :1-3 ESV

On the No-Shower Days

Battle-weary from warring with worry, dazed and confused from the hard fall after the rug got pulled from beneath your planted feet, and insulated in isolation from the human interaction you desperately need, you find yourself staring at that familiar image in the mirror.  If only you could sneak in a 5-minute date with the tub.  A little too familiar?  A few too many no-shower days?

When life is providing challenges, it’s easy to fall into a few of Satan’s well-hidden traps.  If we learn to become vigilant and become skilled at recognizing and disarming them, we stay steady on our journey, and the no-shower days don’t hold as much power as they otherwise would.

Let’s visit a few of the deceiver’s favorite go-to snares otherwise known as lies.

Catastrophizing.

This is where you imagine the worst of outcomes.   Your inner Buzz Lightyear is screaming, “This will last to infinity and beyond!”  This present affliction has to be the absolute biggest and baddest of all big and bad things.   In this place, convincing yourself that this difficult day is destined to be repeated for the next 365 comes easy.  Words like “never” and “forever” and “always” ricochet in your brain space, piercing any positivity you might cling to.  You obsess over the current cause of your hygiene hiatus and believe you will never again shower.  Each of us have our own bait-lines that when swallowed, pull us into the abyss of despondency.  What are yours?

Ruminating. 

In an article titled “Rethinking Rumination” in Perspectives in Social Science, the authors give an excellent definition for rumination…

“rumination is a mode of responding to distress that involves repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and on the possible causes and consequences
of these symptoms. Rumination does not lead to active problem solving to change circumstances surrounding these symptoms.  Instead, people who are ruminating remain fixated on the problems and on their feelings about them without
taking action.” 1

If your thoughts have become the equivalent of a bad vine on YouTube, identify them now.

Enumerating.

Keeping track of your woes?  Adding up insults?  Tabulating troubles?  Multiplying misery?  How often do we count our burdens when we should be counting our blessings?  Becoming an accountant for the adversary is nothing but nonproductive.   It’s easy on the sans-bath days to start a lengthy list of all you do for the others in your life.  What are you logging into your mind’s ledger?

Generalizing.

Sweeping generalizations, the labeling of all of life.  One terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day does not mean they all will be.  Even if the present circumstance does permeate more time than we would choose, it will get better.  It will get easier.  We become healthy when we accept, adjust, and adapt.  Have you painted over a brilliant fine line of promise with a wide brush stroke of generalization today?

Victimizing.

It is far too easy to adopt a victim mentality on the hard days.  Human nature seeks to place blame on someone or something tangible.  We step right into the snares called “If only” and “why can’t”.  Here’s the deal;  bad things happen, people fail us, not everything comes with a labeled reason.  No matter what the source of your pain is, you get to choose whether you will live as a victim or victor.  Taking control of your thought life is the first step in becoming the latter.  Who do you tend to “blame” for your no-shower days?

The Solution:  Spirit-filled mindfulness. 

Mindfulness, apart from spirituality, is defined by Psychology Today as:  “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

Mindfulness tells Buzz Lightyear that he’s overly dramatic.  When truly mindful, we can be aware that this no-shower day is actually a no-shower hour because we are simply in the moment, hour, day.   It grounds us in this truth:

Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Matthew 6:34

See, even the Father instructs us to stay in the present!

With spiritual mindfulness, we can purposely list our blessings,  identify joy in mundane moments, cultivate a garden of gratitude as children of a loving God who holds the future we fear.

Rejoice always!  Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (HCSB)

Here’s the best part!  As Christ-followers, we have an abundance of help.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be discerning of our thoughts and motives.  He is waiting to gently and graciously expose those destructive thought patterns which make us so vulnerable to Satan’s lies.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.  Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.    John 14:26 (HCSB)

When we allow The Spirit to control our thought live vs. dialing him up for damage control, our no-shower days aren’t so distressing and the image we see as we pass the mirror is not that of a worried and worn-out woman, but that of a gentle and quiet spirit who just happens to be tired.  Big difference, my friends.

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.  And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27 (HCSB)

So, you there with the greasy hair and the baggy sweats, know first that you are loved fiercely by your Father God.  Become obsessed with that.  Ruminate on that.  Count the ways He loves you.

BE MINDFUL OF HIM WHO LONGS TO FILL YOUR MIND!

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth , or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)

Make a plan for your next no-shower day.  Right now!!!  Here’s your have-ready list:

  • Scripture verses that hold great meaning to you personally.
  • A positive statement in BIG letters for a prominent place.  i.e. “This too shall pass” or “I am loved by the King” or “He knows”.
  • A dry erase marker for your bathroom mirror.  Draw a happy face every time you visit that room.  Don’t forget to smile back at it.
  • Start a blessings list now and add to it ON your rough days.
  • A play-list of your favorite inspirational music.

Blessings my friends!

 

(1) (http://drsonja.net/wp-content/themes/drsonja/papers/NWL2008.pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

No Man’s Land

The World of White Parents with Black Children

At that moment, when nothing I’ve done or will do matters more than the fact I’m White, I stand completely unable to defend that which they can’t see beyond, my color and my privilege.

Those were my words  after a painful encounter where as the only white in a group of black women, I was given a firm admonition (I’m being tactful) regarding my perceived inability to understand my Black child.   A well-meaning Black sister told my daughter she wished she could take her in, as if MY child I’ve had since infancy needed to be taken from my whiteness.  As I recalled the previous day’s conversation and the raw emotions it produced,  the tears were as willing and hot as they had been the day before.

I am white.  I have children who share my skin color, and I have children who do not. Some were born of my womb, some of my heart.  If you were to line us up, we create a landscape  from the palest of creams to the richest of browns.  Eyes from bright sky blue to a dark chocolate so bottomless you can lose yourself.

A black woman recently asked me why we decided to adopt Black kids.  My answer is 21 years old now…because I didn’t specify my first babies outward appearances  and I’m not placing an order this time either.  We simply wanted to  grow our family by His divine intent and by His good will.

A white woman has poured praises over me for taking in children who were not our own and “giving them a good life”.  On the contrary, they were blessings we received not the other way around.  From the moment we first laid eyes on each of them, they were entirely ours for always and in all ways.


There is so much beauty in our story, so much of the Master’s redemptive plan for each and every human is revealed through adoption.  The ability to sit back and watch God  work out a vast array of details and seemingly insurmountable circumstances to place a specific child into a specific family is just one way He has of fulfilling His plan and purpose in our lives.  The ability of a man and woman to accept and fully embrace a child not conceived by them as their own is the same as God accepting and fully embracing us as His own despite our birth into sin.  I believe every Christ-follower has the capacity to love another in this way through the power of the Holy  Spirit living within us.  What would seem unnatural to the world is innate to believers; a no-brainer, so to speak.

Beautiful and ordained, yes…simple, no.  And so, I drift between the world I know of White privilege and the world my children know.  I’ll call their world Skin First.  I have the privilege of being known for many things before my descriptive race while they most often, are known first by the color of their skin.  What’s worse is when that is all they are known by.  I live in a zone between a White world unwilling to admit there is such a thing as privilege and a Black world unwilling to see their own racial prejudices.  I row my little boat between these two land masses on a sea of angst while bitter voices scream at each other from the shores.  I want my children to be a part of both worlds but neither land has a friendly port for our interracial crew.  We sail on, to No Man’s Land.

Back to my experience as the minority.  I sobbed on the way home.  My daughter, upon seeing and hearing how the encounter had made me feel,  grieved with me.  She was able to tell me that hearing me share how vulnerable I felt solely by the color of my skin made her think I was truly understanding her struggles as a black child in a white community and school for the first time. Over and over she assured me, I am HER mom, the only one she knows, the only one she wants.

This isn’t the first such encounter and it won’t be the last, so what’s the goal in this writing?   I guess I hope to reach my sisters and brothers from both races with this message:

  • Adopted children are God’s children first.  He defines them, not their race. Only when we teach them the value of who they are in Christ, will they be able to withstand the icy winds of racial divides.
  • Adoption happens once.  Do we call ourselves children of God or adopted children of God?  I AM a child of God, its a done deal.  Let us live that way.  We are aware our color differences point out that an adoption took place but we really like to forgo the intrusive questions.
  • Transracial families are both Black and White.  Do not make them choose.
  • Skin color does not a mother (or father) make.  We can all agree Southern White children who were raised by Black “help” were well, well loved and cared for.  Can we be tolerant when that scenario is flipped in our present times?
  • Society is bound by the chains of our History.  Racism as well as reverse racism is alive and well and both our our cultures feed it.  This is a burden each race owns and must first recognize; second, reveal; and third, revolt against.
  • Children do need healthy relationships with people of their own race, but those relationships must always honor the parents’ place in that child’s life.  If you are mentoring, never assume the white momma doesn’t get it.  She may not have personally lived it, but it is her beloved child….believe me, she gets it.
  • I find certain cultural trends in both races unhealthy and denigrating.  Rejecting some form of cultural expression from the Black culture does not equate with me rejecting a Black brother or sister.  Unwrap it.
  • There is a disproportionate number of Black foster and adoptive homes compared to White homes.  Step it up Black friends!
  • White friends, you ARE privileged.  Until you have spent quality time with a Black man or woman and listened to their experiences, do not even pretend to think you can speak to this.
  • We have to lay the fear down.  It is my belief that we have become so fearful of each other, we build fences instead of bridges.  Emotionally, physically, socially, etc.
  • I touched on it earlier but want to reiterate.  As White parents we oppose our Black children being viewed as mission projects or attention-getting tokens.  This devalues them as it suggests they were obtained for our psychological gain vs. them being truly desired by parents who were creating a family.

It is time for the church to take the lead on this.  These relationships need to be born and nurtured within the safety of a community of believers.  This is a call-out.  What can you do in your corner of the world?   Have a discussion with your church leaders about creating a safe place for Transracial families to connect with fellow believers of other races who would be willing to embrace them as a family.  Mentoring relationships will naturally spring from this.  If you’ve been part of such a community, please share with the rest of us what has made your experience successful!

This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday.  A date  which is poignantly special since it would have been so “convenient” for three birth mothers to end our children’s lives.  I would like to end by honoring the bravery and sacrifice of these women and the countless others like them.  For them, I am so grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gallery

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy of Chronic Illness

If you don’t ask, I won’t tell. That sometimes becomes the easiest way to dance around being in relationship with the healthy while managing chronic illness.  

Please keep in mind that this article is written with the very broad spectrum of chronic illnesses in mind, from mental health issues to debilitating and degenerative diseases.  I’ve written this to both the one who struggles with illness and the one in relationship with him or her.

I had some surgery recently which was the result of one of those perfectly constructed domino displays where treating one problem lead to another to another. Now, I’m smack dab in the middle of missing my “this is working” treatment protocol thanks to one more falling domino. I didn’t tell people other than my family, a sweet lady from church who prayed me through it, and a close friend who happened to be on the receiving end of my “help” text, scooping up my child from school on one of the days where a quick recheck turned into a three hour doctor visit. I privately asked my pastor for prayer and gave him the date of the procedure, explaining I don’t share things on the prayer chain anymore because, honestly, it could be something every week.  

We must decide when and what is “big enough” to call in reinforcements. Doing that too often can cause our dignity to take a hit because no one wants to be the needy one, the reason for a sigh or roll of the eyes amongst friends, the “again?” burden.  

Most likely, the dear one reading this knows this scenario all too well; however, if you are outside of the chronic illness circle, you do not, will not, and should not (because we don’t wish this on anyone) truly understand the persistence of our illnesses or the ways it dictates our days.

This does present some challenges as we seek deep and intimate relationships with others. What do we share? When do we share? With whom do we share? How much detail do we share? How often do we share?

For those of us who are sidelined, social media can be this sweet connection with others in the outside world yet at the same time, awakens a longing for the normalcy our friends enjoy. Jealousy can easily creep in like the sneaky sin it is, as we read of shopping, travels, and schedules brimming with activities. She whispers, “Don’t you wish you could do that”? Judgement can raise her ugly fist when we read “woe is me” posts about passing and temporary illnesses. She shouts, “Are you kidding me, you don’t know how much you should be thankful that all you have is a sore throat, wake up”! Next, comes Resentment or Resignation, whichever you allow to take hold.  

For my fellow Cibs (chronic illness buddies) and those of you who rub shoulders with us, I want to propose that Resentment shows up loud, proud, and aggressive. She is in-your-face opinionated and speaks unapologetically in negative tones. She is angry at living a life she didn’t chose and has not yet embraced any beauty from her ashes. Her unresolved anger at God for allowing her suffering spills into her everyday relationships with fellow humans. She fights a losing battle, exhausting all of her limited emotional and physical resources, against a life lived with limitations she doesn’t want. Resentment is just plain stuck in the mud of self pity.
Resignation, on the other hand, is more composed…..quiet, actually. She has come to a place of acceptance. She may even be able to look for the hidden blessings in her situation and relish the relationship she is developing with the Lord that springs from trials. Healthy Resignation has to be true. It isn’t resignation if it pseudo acceptance.  That, my friends, is the sin of manipulation.

Pseudo acceptance is an act in Satan’s grand theatrical production. God sees through it, and you will never have peace just playing the role of a martyr to your illness.

Healthy Resignation speaks softly from a place of embracing the path God has allowed and trusting in His sweet promises every stony step of the way. Resignation is not superhuman, but she rests in the One who is.

So, back to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy…..yes, we are aware of the drain that sharing our daily battles would place on our relationship with healthy friends and family. When you ask how we are doing, we must immediately weigh out 1) Do you really want to know or are you being polite? 2) Would you understand the medical jargon I would need to explain it in? 3) Have I recently burdened you? 4) Is this the time or place for this conversation? 5) If I tell you the truth, will you pull away from me?  

Know that watching a friend or loved one with chronic illness withdraw may be their well-intentioned attempt to protect the relationship with you they find so precious. It may well speak to how highly they value your place in their life. 

 A tentative friend may be one who is longing to pour out her angst and discouragement to someone he or she loves (you) but when is enough, enough? Better to keep quiet than risk loss?

Breaking the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy takes bravery. It takes a brave friend to take the time to authentically ask, and on the flip side, it takes a brave friend to truthfully tell. No matter which side of the fence you are on, it is a lot to take on in this hurried, surface-skimming world.

 Time and vulnerability…..neither are as highly valued as they should be. Food for thought.