Friday, June 11, 2021

Loving Day! - 19 Children's Books with Multiracial Families



June 12th is Loving Day! It is the anniversary of the day the US Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in the case of Loving vs. Virginia. In celebration, I'm sharing these beautiful children's books that feature multiracial characters and families. Some are explicitly about race, ethnicity, or skin color, and others are simply good stories that have representation of multiracial people and families. Most of these are for ages 4-8, but my big kid (almost 10 years old) loves them, too!


A Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage
By Selina Alko; Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Also

"A Case for Loving" tells the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving and their legal battle to be able to marry each other. Interracial marriages were against the law in Virginia, where they lived, so they got married in Washington, D.C. before returning home. They were jailed for breaking the state law and then took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was struck down. This is a powerful story told in a way that is appropriate for young children. I was so glad to be able to share this piece of history with my kids! Ages 4-8 years old



Tiny, Perfect Things

By M. H. Clark; Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper


This is one of my favorite children's books ever. It is the story of a grandfather and his granddaughter going on a walk, looking for tiny, perfect things: a spider web, a crow, a yellow leaf, a snail, and other simple treasures. In our busy, entertainment-centered culture, this book is a breath of fresh air. It’s a celebration of slowing down, observing and finding joy in the small beauties around us. There’s a quiet intimacy between the grandfather and the little girl, and I love the representation of a multi-racial family. It would be the perfect introduction to a nature studies lesson. Ages 5-8




Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

Marisol McDonald no combina 

By Monica Brown; Illustrated by Sara Palacios


This is one of my preschooler’s favorites! It’s a really fun bilingual book. Marisol McDonald has lovely brown skin like her mom and fire-red hair like her dad. She likes to speak Spanish like her Peruvian mother and English like her father. She wears mismatched clothes, and uses print and cursive to wrote her name. Others seem to want her to match in multiple areas of her life, but she discovers that she is loved and lovely just as she is, in all her uniqueness and creativity. I loved reading this to my daughter in both Spanish and English, as we were missing her Spanish immersion preschool during the quarantine. This is a wonderful celebration of a multiracial family. Ages 4-8




Sonya’s Chickens 

By Phoebe Wahl

“I do everything I can to make sure you are happy, and have a full belly and a warm place to sleep. You did everything you could to make sure your chicks were happy and had fully bellies and a warm place to sleep. Because you love your chicks like I love you. The fox is no different. He loves his kits too. So even though it’s sad for us, we can understand why he did it.”


Sonya adores her chicks and takes good care of them as they grow, but one day, she hears a noise in the chicken coop. One of the hens is missing! When she finds out that a fox got the chicken, her father gently explains in a way that is truthful but empathetic. This is a really beautiful book that is perfect for animal lovers! It lends itself to a broader discussion about empathy and considering multiple perspectives. Ages 4-8




By Andrea Cheng; Illustrated by Ange Zhang

Helen's Gong Gong (grandfather) is coming from China to the United States to live with Helen and her family. She is excited to see him, but her excitement wanes when she sees Gong Gong's disappointment with her inability to speak his language. Slowly, the two find a way to communicate and begin to learn from each other, forming a special bond in the process. Ages 4-7



By Marguerite W. Davol; Illustrated by Irene Trivas

"Mama's face is chestnut brown.
Her dark brown eyes are bright as bees.
Papa's face turns pink in the sun; his blue eyes sequence up when he smiles.
My face? I look like both of them--
a little dark, a little light.
Mama and Papa say, "Just right!"

With lyrical text, this reads like poetry about a little girl considering the unique characteristics of each of her parents, and how she is sometimes a blend of her parents, and sometimes different from both of them, but always, "just right!" This book is joyous and celebratory! Ages 4-8



By Norton Juster; Illustrated by Chris Raschka

From the author of The Phantom Tollbooth, this is a magical book about a little girl and her Nanna and Poppy's special "Hello, Goodbye Window." Through this window, you can play tricks, make silly faces, and look at your reflection. The book explores the simple joys of spending time with grandparents who make everything feel special. Ages 4-8



By Pamela Meyer
Illustrated by Deborah Melmon

“‘Presenting the first ever Jewish Chinese Kreplach Wonton Chicken Soup!’ I said.

‘A little Jewish, a little Chinese—a lot like me,’ I said.”


Sophie loves her bubbe’s Jewish kreplach soup and her nai nai’s Chinese wonton soup. But which one is better? She cooks up a plan to bring everyone together and everyone agrees—mixing it up produces something special, just like Sophie. This is a sweet book about family and embracing all of the parts that make us who we are. Most importantly, who we are is loved! Ages 4-9




Jalepeño Bagels

By Natasha Wing; Illustrated by Robert Casilla


Pablo is having trouble deciding what food to bring to school for International Day. What would best represent his culture? He gets up early to go to his parents’ bakery and help bake some of his mother’s Mexican food recipes and some from his father’s Jewish heritage. At last he has the perfect idea to represent both cultures—jalapeño bagels! I love the warmth of the parents in this story of blending cultures and taking pride in both. Ages 5-8





Lulu the One and Only

By Lynnette Mawhinney; Illustrated by Jennie Poh


"Everyone else might be confused, but I'm not. I love our family. But being a mix of Mama and Daddy always bring around THAT question. I hate THAT question. 'What are you?'"


"'I'm magic made from my parents."


"I'm Lulu Lovington, the one and only!"


Lulu and her brother Zane are a mix of their Black mom and White dad. This seems to confuse other people, who often ask the dreaded question: "What are you?" Lulu's big brother tells her that he has come up with a "power phrase" that helps him answer the question in a way that directs attention to who he is, instead of what he is. Inspired to come up with her own power phrase, Lulu is ready the next time the question rolls around, and she feels great about who she is! This would be a great classroom read to teach and empower kids who feel frustrated or embarrassed by similar questions about their identities. It also sheds a light on how well-intentioned questions like this can feel hurtful as we are getting to know new people. Ages 4-8




Gracias/Thanks

By Pat Mora; Illustrated by John Parra


“Por el sol que me despierta y no permite que siga durmiendo por años y años, y que me crezca una larga barba blanca, gracias.

For the sun that wakes me up so I don’t sleep for years and years and grow a long, white beard, thanks.”


So begins this fun bilingual (Spanish/English) book about giving thanks. A little boy thinks of all the delights and good things he is thankful for, from ladybugs to his uncle’s music to mom finding his homework in the trashcan. I love the representation of a multiracial family and a biracial child in this book of gratitude. It’s sure to bring smiles and chuckles to young readers as it inspires us to consider all the things for which we are grateful! Ages 4-8




Harriet Gets Carried Away

By Jessie Sima

 

We got carried away right along with Harriet in this playful, imaginative book! Harriet loves costumes and wears them every day, year round. She decides to be a penguin for her dress-up birthday party. When she accompanies her dads to the store to pick up items for the party, she wanders off and finds a group of penguins. They lead her on an adventure and she has quite a lot of excitement on her way back to find her dads at the store—she is helped by an iceberg, a parachute, an orca, and some bird friends. This is a magical, whimsical celebration of imagination. Young children will be joyously caught up in Harriet's adventure and find satisfaction in her return to the safety of her home base. We loved this book! Ages 4-8




Papa, Daddy, & Riley

By Seamus Kirst; Illustrated by Devon Holzwarth 


This beauty is a feast for the eyes! Check out  @devonholzwarth’s profile on Instagram for a peek at some of the incredible illustrations. The illustrator’s “work is inspired by childhood memories growing up in Panama and her collection of vintage children’s books.” I love finding contemporary books with artwork that has a vintage feel! When Olive’s classmate asks her which of her 2 dads is her real dad, she is distressed at the prospect of having to choose between Daddy and Papa. She loves them both so much and sees parts of each of them, as well as her “belly mom,” in herself. When her dads pick her up and ask why she is distraught, they have a conversation about all the many different types of families and concludes with, “Love makes a family.” Beautiful book! Ages 4-8




The Colors of Us

By Karen Katz


I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother

By Selina Alko


These two books celebrate all the many different skin tones in the people around us! Both are appropriate for preschoolers up to middle elementary. The text is simple but the message is a valuable conversation starter for kids of all ages. For those of us who grew up in a “colorblind” society, books like these are a great way to promote noticing and celebrating differences instead of shushing our children when they inevitability point them out. These would be fantastic books for classroom libraries!





Honeysmoke 

By Monique Fields; Illustrated by Yesenia Moises


Simone’s mama is black and her daddy is white, but she can’t decide what color she is. She searches and searches for just the right words to describe her color and finds it at last when she combines her mama’s “honey” color with her father’s “smoke” color. Gorgeously illustrated, this book is a wonderful celebration of uniqueness and all kinds of beauty. It even has an invitation at the end for the reader to come up with just the right words for his or her own color. This would be a great book to pair with Crayola's Colors of the World crayons! Ages 3-6




My Footprints

By Bao Phi; lllustrated by Basia Tran


Thuy comes home from school upset after being bullied for having two moms, being Vietnamese American, and being a girl. She wants to “be the biggest and strongest and scariest monster,” so she can make the bullying stop. Her moms join her in imagining what kind of creature they could pretend to be together, “because we’re stronger together.” Momma Ngoc’s favorite animal is the phoenix, and Momma Arti’s favorite is the Sarabha—a powerful, part-lion, part-bird creature from Hindu mythology. Thuy decides to make up her own creature, which is a combination of herself and her two moms, called “Arti-Thuy-Ngoc-osaurus.” The author draws on his experience as a refugee. This is an empowering book about family and identity and the strong bonds that support us when we are struggling to find a sense of belonging the world. Ages 6-8




Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas

By Pamela Ehrenberg; Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar


“Lots of people fry potato latkes for Hanukkah. In my family, we do things a little bit differently. Instead of latkes, we make yummy Indian dosas. But doing anything—especially cooking—is tricky when my sister, Sadie, is around...”


This is such a fun story! A little boy’s family is preparing to celebrate Hanukkah in keeping with his father’s Jewish heritage, but they’ll combine it with his mother’s delicious Indian cooking. However, his sister Sadie is such a climber, she keeps getting into everything. Imagine everyone’s surprise when Sadie saves the day when they all get locked out of the house just before their holiday meal! I love this story about family, celebration, and the blending of two different cultures. My kiddos loved it too! Ages 4-7




Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama

By Selina Alko

“I’m a mix of two traditions. From Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama.”


From the author of another favorite listed below (“I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother"), this is a wonderful book about a family that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, just like the author’s own family. A little girl describes the traditions they keep, from latkes and jelly donuts to lighting the menorah and opening gifts. They sing both Christmas and Hanukkah songs and tell the sacred stories of both holidays. We love Selina Alko’s inclusive books! Ages 5-8






Monday, June 7, 2021

Say Their Names

Breath Prayer: 
Inhale: Remove my heart of stone.
Exhale: Give me a heart of flesh.

The Say Their Names Memorial displayed on the lawn at a church; black and white headshots with names of Black people killed unjustly, with flowers at each picture
"Say Their Names" Memorial from Lake Highlands Area Moms Against Racism, displayed at Arapaho United Methodist Church

Black and white headshots of Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Denise McNair, displayed on the lawn with flowers

Every morning this week when I walk my two children into church for VBS, we will walk by the Say Their Names Memorial on display on the front lawn. This morning we walked through the rows of names and faces of God's beloved Black children whose lives were stolen far too soon due to injustice. 

“There’s so many!” my fifth grader gasped. I had told her about the memorial beforehand*, but she was unprepared for the magnitude of it. “Remember the little girls from the church bombing? Remember George Floyd? Remember Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor?” She nodded, and it began to rain. 

a portion of the many black and white headshots of Black people killed unjustly, each with flowers by it, on the lawn at a church

a close up of a black and white headshot of Jason Edwards, with flowers

Then, we walked into the building for a joyous reunion on this first in-person, indoor church experience since the beginning of the pandemic. Our senior pastor, wearing butterfly wings, greeted us and chatted with my five year old about Disney princesses. A beloved Sunday School teacher gave my reluctant big kid a warm hug. 

 If we ALL belong to each other, and we are family, then this—all of it—is church. I want my kids to see that church is grieving and laughing and worshipping and silly songs and speaking out against injustice, even and especially wherever it lurks in our very own hearts. Church is meals together and ancient stories, loving our neighbors by staying home, masking up, and getting vaccinated during a pandemic. 
a close up of the black and white headshot of Ahmaud Arbery, with flowers

Church is crying and raging and then asking God to show us how to make our bodies, minds, hearts, and hands available to become peacemakers. It’s doubting with the doubters while you sit right next to the ones who are full of faith, knowing that the very same people might switch places the next week or month or year. It’s borrowing someone else’s hope until you have your own, and then lending yours to someone else who is weary.
a close up of the black and white headshot of Botham Jean, with flowers


Oh God, let us be the Church. Remove our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. Let our hearts become neither numb nor hopeless, neither apathetic nor crushed by the weight of injustice and lament. Let us not look away when You confront us with the devastating consequences of our own actions and those of the oppressive systems we have participated in, benefitted from, and otherwise upheld. Because only when we can let ourselves feel the depths of communal grief can we open ourselves up to the communal joy that is set before us as we stand with and for each other, Your beautiful, imperfect image bearers. Let us not downplay our sin or our belovedness, for only in the security of our status as loved children of God can we face what needs to change in our hearts and in our world. 

 Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.


*For a resource about how to talk to children about racial injustice and police brutality, see this guide from the Muhammad Ali Center. The guide is also included at the end of a children's book called "For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World" by Rev. Dr. Michael Waters.

Friday, June 4, 2021

belonging vs. fitting in

 

Image contents: a poppy in a field of larkspurs. Text says,“‘If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.’ Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown” 


I’ve long grappled with a sense of not quite fitting in wherever I go and have always wondered if everyone else feels that way. I suppose I was looking for belonging in my not-belonging-ness.

Riso and Hudson say that one of the defense mechanisms for 6s is identification (and I suspect for some other numbers too). Sometimes we over-identify with groups and belief systems as we seek to find safety in authorities because we struggle to trust ourselves. 

In “Braving the Wilderness,” Brené Brown says, “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.”

As someone who is prone to over-identifying with a group, sometimes I privately, quietly push against conforming because of the need to be my authentic self. I have misinterpreted that as meaning that I don’t belong because I don’t hold all of the same beliefs or opinions of the vocal people in the group. The feeling of not belonging seems to have been my subconscious protection against losing my identity in a group. 

On a walk, I was thinking and praying about these things.

“Look at the flowers,” I sensed God saying. “Do they belong, each one individually?”

I looked out at a field of wildflowers— mostly larkspurs, with a few poppies dotting the field here and there. Some blended in with those around them; others stood out. 

The question seemed preposterous—of course each flower belonged. And then the thought came, “Each one belongs because it is there.”

Each flower had grown up in its own spot among the others, and by virtue of being there, it belonged. 

Perhaps I can let go of the imposter syndrome that plagues me sometimes when I’m in a group and feel uncomfortable because parts of me seem so different than parts of others. Perhaps I belong because I am there, as myself, just as every other person does.

As we sit with the discomfort and learn that we can remain our authentic selves, we make space for each other person in the group to do the same. Our acceptance of our inherent belonging is an invitation for others to accept theirs, too. 

As Richard Rohr says, “Everything belongs.”

Saturday, May 22, 2021

certainty vs. clarity

Image text: We can’t always have the certainty we want, but discernment allows us to find the clarity we need.

One of the driving needs for Enneagram 6s is for certainty, though no doubt other personality types gravitate toward certainty-seeking, as well. We like to know what’s coming so we can prepare ourselves, even if just mentally and emotionally. Uncertainty can feel scary and disorienting.

Lately, I’ve found that while I can’t always have certainty, God often does allow me to have clarity. When I do the work to pray, surrender, and discern, God often responds and allows me to get in touch with my inner knowing. My habit is to second guess myself even when I think I have discerned something, but certainty doesn’t coexist with faith in myself or in God. 

Trusting yourself doesn’t mean you won’t ever get it wrong. It means that you develop the habit of getting in touch with your inner knowing and acting accordingly without an excessive need for affirmation from others. We can be confident while still holding decisions and ideas loosely enough for God to redirect and course-correct as needed. We can seek wise counsel from others without losing ourselves in someone else’s decisions and opinions. 

I’m practicing self-talk when I begin to second guess myself after finding clarity: “You already know. You prayed about this and discerned the next step. You don’t need affirmation from others to validate the decisions about which you’ve already received clarity.” 

Certainty involves knowing future outcomes, which we cannot do, but clarity involves coming to a clear sense of understanding and knowing how we ought to proceed in a given situation. We can act with confidence and let go of our need to control the results. We can recognize that mistakes do not indicate that we shouldn’t have trusted ourselves; mistakes are simply reminders that we are human. 

Finally, we remember that regardless of anything we do or don’t do, we remain, always, held and loved deeply by a God who knows how hard it is to be human.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Sacred growing spaces

 

Image: a sign in front of green grass, with a patch of dirt in front of it, reads, “Please don’t walk or let your dog walk in the zinnia seed bed, so all the neighborhood can enjoy the coming flowers. Thanks”

I saw this sign on my walk this morning. One of our neighbors has a flower bed that is annually filled with zinnias accompanied by a sign inviting neighbors to clip and take some flowers to enjoy. The flowers aren’t visible yet this year, but they’ll come if they are given the space, time, and nourishment they need, and then the whole neighborhood will benefit from their brilliant beauty.

I’ve been thinking about the many ways in which we need gentle places when we are in the midst of the hard, painful, good work of healing and growing in body, mind, and spirit. God exposes and heals our hurts, but God also provides safe places to be when we are doing the vulnerable work of healing. One of the most godly things we can do on this earth is to help provide gentle places for people who are recovering, growing, and transforming. Healed and transformed people heal and transform the world, so supporting this work is always for the good of the community at large.

Healing and growing can be vulnerable, awkward, painful, and uncomfortable. When we recognize that others are in this space, let us be gentle, because what looks like dirt may just be the fertile soil covering up new seedlings. Don’t tread on the flowers, even when we can’t see them yet. When we give them room to grow, our whole community will reap the benefits. 

I’m dreaming of a world where everyone can thrive exactly as they were created to. If the concept of Shalom includes everything needed for the flourishing of every person and every group, I wonder what it would look like for everyone to have these sacred growing spaces. 

What do you need in order to flourish? What do your fellow image bearers need?

Friday, April 9, 2021

Certainty/Uncertainty

 

Certainty places limits. Uncertainty allows for creativity and possibility.


One of the strongest motivators for Enneagram 6s is the need for certainty, which results in lots of planning ahead. Like many things, this can be a helpful quality except when it isn’t. The problem with an excessive need for certainty is that it places limits. 6s (including yours truly) need to learn to allow for some uncertainty in order to make space for creativity.


I’ve been thinking about this as it relates to justice work. 6s are good troubleshooters, but if we only ever see the problems in the world around us, we lack vision for what we are reaching for and are reacting instead of working towards a better future. We need prophetic imagination to get there—time to dream, wonder, and imagine how the world could be instead of only how we wish it weren’t. 


6s often feel bound by duty, which can make it difficult to prioritize time for “play,” but play is where we let ourselves try new things simply for the joy of it. This is more likely to happen when we make the security move to 9. Just like young children are more likely to explore and take risks necessary for growth and development when they feel safe and have a safe base to return to, 6s who feel settled and secure can more comfortably take risks needed in order to grow.


When I allow myself to play and explore with fewer limits, I find my creativity is boosted, which is a great help in problem solving more effectively. We can let our worried “what if...?” that leads to anxious preparation for the worst case scenario become a curious invitation to ask “what if...?” in the context of dreaming and possibility. 


How do you see this show up in yourself? Whether you’re a 6 or another number, how do you let yourself play? Perhaps we (6s) can learn from other numbers for whom playing and dreaming comes more naturally!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

deconstruction resources, part 1: books


Someone recently asked for suggestions for resources as they begin the process of faith deconstruction. As I was thinking over the books and podcasts that have been most helpful to me over the past five years or so, I thought it might be helpful for others, as well. I’ll do a separate post with some podcast recommendations.

I know deconstruction means different things to different people. For me, it has mostly meant trying to separate out my culture and biases from what the Bible really says/means and who God really is. It is impossible to be free of bias, but my view of God has expanded so much as I have intentionally sought out perspectives of marginalized people of faith. It is an on-going process, but I am (mostly) no longer afraid of the hard questions or threatened by people whose views challenge mine. There’s a lot of grief involved in this process, but I wouldn’t trade it. Wrestling with God has been an intimacy that has changed my life and my faith, and I have much more compassion for myself and others than I did before I took a deep dive in. 

Deconstruction Resources, in 3 parts:

Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin Curtice

The Color of Compromise: the Truth about the American Church's Complicity in Racism  by Jemar Tisby

Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy S. Woodley

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr

Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place by Danielle Shroyer

Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey

Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging by Brennan Manning
Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah

The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right by Lisa Sharon Harper

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill

Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller

Reading While Black : An African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope by Esau McCaulley


What is the Bible? How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything by Rob Bell

Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us Out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode--and into a Life of Connection and Joy by Aundi Kolber

The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Tell About Ourselves by Curt Thompson

The Creator Revealed: A Physicist Examines the Big Bang and the Bible by Michael G. Strauss

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

You Are Enough: Learning to Love Yourself the Way God Loves You by Jonathan Puddle

Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack by Alia Joy

Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing From White Supremacy by Rachel Ricketts



Monday, March 15, 2021

deconstruction & idols

Image: text says “What if deconstruction is simply the tearing down of idols?”

I’ve seen lots of conversation lately about faith deconstruction. I know it can mean different things to different people, but I think for me, it has meant learning to see and tear down idols. As I have listened to more BIPOC, LGBTQ+, poor, and disabled folks, I have realized how deeply rooted in white American Evangelical culture my understanding of God and the Bible has been. These cultural beliefs had become all knotted up with who I thought God was, and anything we see and worship as God that is not really God, is an idol. 

If we are all made in God’s image, then to know the beautiful diversity of God’s people is to know God better. 

So many sacred cows have been tipped over for me as I have begun to see that much of what I thought was Christianity is actually just white American culture. I need God to be bigger than that, and I’m so glad to find that God is. 

As an Enneagram 6, one of the hardest parts for me at the beginning of this unraveling was the uncertainty. If I let go of one belief, but hadn’t figured out what I thought yet in its place, where would I land? Shifting foundations are so uncomfortable for those of us who like predictability and structure.

Though it was scary and disorienting at first, I’ve seen the rich fruit of wrestling with God and theology, and I’ve experienced the tenderness of God in the process of my healing. I’m learning to trust that whatever I’m letting go of will open my hands for something better and truer. When I come to God with open hands, heart, and mind, God gives me gifts for which I didn’t even know to hope or ask. 

God is so much better than many of us have allowed ourselves to believe, and we are so much more loved than we knew. Wherever you find yourself in the process of knowing God, it all belongs. You are so loved.

Monday, March 8, 2021

a nod to the inner child

The other day I had to go to my favorite local, independent pharmacy, and this little blue bird caught my attention. When I was a child, the aunt and uncle I was named after (their last name was Lindsay) had some cobalt blue glass figures like this in their house. I remember staring at them, transfixed by the color and the way the light came through, and I thought it was so beautiful.

I debated whether to spend the money, but I decided that $1.99 was worth taking a moment to honor my inner child.

In reading books like You Are Enough by Jonathan Puddle, Try Softer by Aundi Kolber, Native by Kaitlin Curtice, and now Do Better by Rachel Ricketts, along with therapy from years ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about my ancestors as well as my inner child.

Her feelings were not always honored or considered important, which sometimes causes them to come out sideways. I have tried to rationalize them away when they seemed too messy, childish, and inefficient. I’m working on paying attention to what she feels, listening to her fears, and honoring what she has to say. She is not running the show, but she needs to be acknowledged to be healed.

I’ve been learning from our Black and Indigenous siblings about our connection to our ancestors and the way we are still impacted by them as we carry them with us in our bodies and our memory. I’ve been working on understanding more about the people I come from and both the harm and the healing they brought into the world.

This little blue bird is a nod to my inner child, who was so delighted with it, as well as to my ancestors. May I remember who I came from, who I was, and how they contribute to who I am and who I want to be. May we be agents of healing in a hurting world, beginning with the inner work of healing ourselves.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

nothing has changed, but everything looks different

Four years ago today, I snapped this picture of one small, red suitcase and captioned it, “One tiny suitcase is all you need when you’re packing for one. I had forgotten what that’s like!” 

I was leaving my 1 year old and my preschooler to go to Houston for two nights. It was the first time I had gone on a trip alone in years. I was headed to a conference called LIT led by Beth Moore, one of my sheroes of the faith, for young women who had a call to speak, write, or teach. I had no idea whether I was called to do any of those things but I was certain that I was supposed to be there.


At the time, I was slowly coming out of the haze of my second round of postpartum depression and anxiety. I had recently weaned my one year old, and between taking care of her and my firstborn in the midst of my own mental health issues, I was very much living in survival mode but with hope that the fog was beginning to lift. Perhaps we would sleep again. Just maybe, I’d have a few more moments to myself each day, though my toddler’s routine nap refusals suggested otherwise. I had lost my Self again in the wake of giving birth and caring for a newborn, and I was anxiously awaiting her return. I missed her.


Shortly before the conference, I had been introduced to the Enneagram and was deeply distressed to find myself portrayed so clearly in the description of type 6—the anxiety-ridden worst-case-scenario planner. I knew it was me but did not understand how God could possibly have made me to be defined by anxiety. And yet, this seemed to be the 6’s defining characteristic. 


The day of the conference was overwhelming. God’s presence was undeniable, though it was all still such a mystery. Like Mary, I “pondered these things in my heart,” knowing I had had a significant, life-changing encounter with the Holy but unsure of what had happened and what it meant. I prayed that the day would be a turning point in my life, and that is the best term to describe it. Everything has been divided into “Before” and “After” God spoke to me at LIT. It was a commissioning for a calling I did not understand.


While I was there, Christine Caine told all of us that God wanted to ask us, “What can I do for YOU?” That God would ask this surprised and overwhelmed me. In light of everything I had been learning through the Enneagram and the words and verses I had sensed God speaking to me, I asked for lasting peace and deliverance from anxiety. I experienced a peace and quiet, contented sense of well-being in the immediate aftermath of that weekend and was hopeful that it would last forever. 


It did not. 


In the four years since that time, I have wrestled with whole new levels of anxiety, culminating in a summer of panic attacks in 2018 that were unlike anything I had ever experienced. When I asked God to take them away, the answer I heard was that God would rescue me in those moments, again and again, until I began to expect rescue each time. The intimacy of experiencing God as my habitual Rescuer still brings me to tears.


I am not still free from anxiety in the way I had hoped I would be. I still have anxiety disorder, and I’ve learned to ride out the waves of panic attacks. The over-arching theme of what God has revealed to me—the most important thing about me that is different now—is that in the midst of my mental health struggles and the shame that sometimes attends them, I have a place of belovedness to return home to. I sometimes need the reminder, but I am absolutely, completely convinced of my unconditional belovedness, regardless of the state of my mental health. While I still have general anxiety, I now have the deep-down peace of knowing that I am loved, every moment, regardless of anything I do or don’t do. It is the simplest message—“Jesus loves me. This I know”—but the most transformative. In God’s great mercy, the knowledge of God’s love that I’ve carried in my head has trickled down into my body, my heart, into the deepest nooks and crannies of my spirit. I struggle, but my worthiness is no longer at stake. I have peace in knowing myself as God’s beloved, and this gives me the courage to follow Jesus to the uncomfortable places He leads me.


I wanted God to make me consistently at ease and unbothered, but an unbothered person feels no compulsion to join in God’s work of restoration in a broken world. If I were numb to the pain around me, I would lose the Enneagram 6’s gift of being Awake. We are the guardians of the Enneagram—we spot potential trouble and prepare accordingly in order to protect the ones we love. We keep watch through the night to the sounds of the steady, sleeping breaths of others who have different gifts (thank goodness).


God is opening my eyes to the suffering of my most marginalized siblings and allows me to feel pain, lament, and repentance. The Lord knew that I didn’t need to be numb to all that is wrong in the world. I thought of Jacob's wrestling with God and the way God changed his name, and I imagined that God had changed my name--my very identity--to "Peace." 


The Creator had the wisdom to know that I was created as I was meant to be. I didn't need a new identity, but a better understanding of the one I had had all along. I prayed for peace that would be based on a lack of anxiety, and in answer, God called me “Beloved” based on my unshakeable identity. The waves of worry and panic wax and wan, but God’s Love for me is a steady beacon of hope each time we lock eyes while the storm rages around me. My journey, like every hero's journey, took me to new places in order that I might return home to myself. Nothing has changed, but everything looks different. I prayed to embody peace, as I understood it, and instead, God called me Loved, just as I am.