Wednesday, November 15, 2017

that damn stroke



A nurse stood at the foot of Dad's bed and held up a pen in one hand, a banana in the other.

"Mike, point to the pen."

His left hand carelessly pointed to the banana.

The nurse set down the banana and held up a water bottle instead.

"Mike, point to the water bottle."

He pointed to the pen.

I thought he was kidding. I thought he was annoyed at the nurse for insulting his intelligence. This was a man who lived for Trivial Pursuit and participated in Jeopardy every afternoon at 3:30 - a grammar nerd, literary guru, and Cubs' stats fanatic. He was being asked questions suited for a nine-month old, and I thought he was playing her. The nurse repeated this exam several times throughout the morning, each time with similar results.

I couldn't stand it anymore.

"Dad. Stop it. Be serious. Point to the pen."

He looked back at me confused. The nurse wrote something on her clipboard and left.

*****

We had been waiting all day for information, an answer, a suggestion, a next step. A new doctor came into the room and stood at the foot of Dad's bed as we circled around. But there was no information, no answers. Instead, the doctor kept a safe distance from optimism, swimming around in a vague territory of "more tests," and "just have to wait and see." If we were looking for hope that Dad might speak again or walk out of this hospital, we wouldn't find it from this doctor. 

Exhausted and defeated, it was clear we all needed a break. 

My brother and I, along with our spouses, ended up at Starbucks. I was thirty-six weeks pregnant and ordered an iced passion tea lemonade; it didn't seem appropriate.

Thirty hours ago Mom had found Dad on their bedroom floor, crippled and silenced by a massive stroke. Right now he was sleeping in a hospital room. He couldn't move the right side of his body and made weird noises when he tried to talk. His face was droopy, and he needed someone to wipe drool off his chin. While he laid in bed scared, confused, and unable to distinguish a pen from a banana, I was sitting outside a coffee shop on an 80 degree day drinking a fuchsia colored iced tea. Something didn't feel right, but it was also a relief to be out of that hospital, away from doctors who had no answers and offered little hope. There was freedom from the stale conversation that hangs in hospital rooms because no one knows what to say but silence seems worse. The familiarity of a coffee shop brought relief. I don't know how to navigate hospitals, awkwardly lingering around my dad as he lay motionless in bed, but I do know coffee shops. I know how to order a drink and idle by the counter. I know how to set up camp around a table, sip, talk, people watch, repeat. It was comforting to know what I was doing for an hour. 

We sat around the table, and I told them I didn't feel bad for my brother or for my myself. We had Dad, at his best, when we needed him most. He was there - baseball games, dance recitals, Six Flags, AWANA Dad's Night. He'd taught us to drive and took us to Cubs games. He'd moved us into college and walked me down the aisle. I didn't even feel that bad for my mom. I probably should have, but she was Mom; Mom can always handle it. 

Instead, I told them, my heart was aching for this baby in me who would only know a grandpa who sits in a wheelchair as a quiet spectator rather than one who gives piggyback rides and reads stories in a Donald Duck voice. 

My heart also ached for my brother's three-year-old twin boys. They were too young and wouldn't remember that just nine days ago their Grandpa was splashing them in a hotel pool and building a sand castle on the shore of Lake Michigan. 

That's when my brother cried. 

My brother is a man of action; he always has a plan, a next step. There was something about seeing him, elbow on the table, leaning into his hand to wipe away tears that told me this was bad. This was our great divide - the event that just split our lives into a before and after. 

I stopped talking and drank my tea. 

*****

It was just after 4:00 in the afternoon on Monday, three days after Dad's stoke. I was sitting on the small plastic couch near the window when Dad waved his left hand, motioning me to come closer. He pointed to the clock and then back at me; his face was concerned and looked to me for an answer. I knew that look, and I knew what he was thinking. 

"You're wondering why I'm still here," I said. 

He nodded.

"You want to know when I am leaving."

More nodding. 

"You know it's 4:00, and you know we have a five hour drive back to Ohio. You are worried about us driving home in the dark." I said it as more of a question, not really sure if he understood details like time. 

But he nodded again and even smiled. He motioned at the clock and then at the door.

"We'll leave soon, okay?" I sounded like a teenager, irritated at my overly protective father. But I wasn't really annoyed; I was relieved and knew he also wanted to ask if I'd rotated my tires recently. 

He reached over and put his left hand on my giant belly. My throat tightened up, and I felt tears burning the back of my eyes. But I didn't want to cry, again. I didn't want to tell him my heart was crumbling with fear and that he had to get better so he could play with his grandbaby. 

"You think I should leave now so I don't have the baby right here?"

He laughed and looked at my mom as if to say, "Would you help me out here and get her to leave already?"  

That was the first time I saw a hint of Dad. Visitors with good intentions told us he was still in there; he was the same old Mike. But I wasn't so sure until he pointed to that clock.

*****

The months after dad's stroke were confusing. I had lost the dad I'd known for 29 years and weeks later gave birth to my first child. I didn't know how to let the joy of motherhood exist alongside the sadness of dad's stroke, and even now, five years later, I cannot separate the grief and joy. I loved those early weeks of motherhood, but it felt selfish to be so happy when I knew my mom was miles away drowning in decisions and sorrow while my dad was barely moving or speaking. 
 
I was grieving the loss of my dad. I still am. But that seems strange - grieving the loss of a dad who is alive. 

He has come a long way from the man I saw in the hospital bed five years ago. I am thankful for that. But in my desire to be thankful, I haven't given my sadness the room it deserves. I haven't said aloud how much I hate that damn stroke. I haven't thought much about how I'm sad, and how I miss my dad, and how unfair it is that my children were robbed of their grandpa. 

If I give my sadness an inch, I am convinced it will take the mile. And then another mile after that, probably picking up anger and fear and bitterness along the way. Before long, I might be too far gone. 

But today I will say it. 

I hate that damn stroke. 

I hate that it took the life we expected for my mom and dad. I hate that it took the grandpa who wants to wrestle and swim and play hide-and-seek. I hate that my brother's twin boys had three years with that grandpa, but my children never met him. And I hate that I'm starting to forget. 

I have to try, really try, when I want to remember him. I have to sit in a quiet room and close my eyes if I want to hear his voice and remember the distinctive Italian gestures he'd use when telling a story. Sometimes I try to remember him sitting in the driver's seat of the car or mowing the lawn, but I can't, not anymore. It's strange how you can see something or hear something for decades, but then forget so quickly. 

I do not take Dad's recovery lightly. He took on years of therapy like a champ, relearning to speak and walk and manage with just his left hand. We are still adjusting to a new normal, but Dad is alive, and he knows his grandchildren. They build puzzles, play CandyLand, and sit on his lap to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. They have an inside joke about quesadillas, and Dad can bust out a pretty mean tickle monster with his left hand. They adore him, and I am thankful. 

But I still hate that damn stroke.

Monday, October 30, 2017

because one day you won't, part 2

This past summer, I went all sappy mom and wrote this.

I'm doing it again.

These past two months have taken me down. Our hearts are celebrating the news of baby #3, but my body is rebelling against all parts of life that don't involve lying on a couch eating Rice Krispies. I'm irritable and ill and have had to force myself to notice quirky, childlike moments invading our home. It seems like these moments are hiding, lost in the blur of me running to throw up, again, but they are there. And I know they won't be for long.

Because one day she won't come to my gynecologist appointment with a baby doll hidden under her shirt.



Because one day she won't wear a Snow White dress and have a picnic in her room. 



And because one day she won't ask to go to the Verizon store with me rather than staying home to play with friends. 

 *****


Because one day he won't line up tiny twigs when his dad asks him to gather firewood.
 


Because one day he won't mow the lawn in his diaper, rain boots, and winter hat.  



And because one day he won't call rabbits "bunny hops."



So today I will notice those moments.

#becauseonedayyouwont


 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

my messy beginning: week 4


This is the final essay for the blog series I've participated in alongside three other wonderful writers. It has been my honor to explore this messy topic with Mika, Amy, and Precious. They are all such beautiful, creative, intelligent women. This final post was written by me. 

*****
I prefer when my writing culminates into a complete thought, when stories and anecdotes sit with me long enough to reach a finish line. I tend not to hit that Publish button until I've drawn a conclusion, tidied things up, and feel a sense of a closure.

Today is different.

There is no sense of closure because I'm just beginning this journey. I have so many conclusions spinning in my head I hardly know what to do next. I'm in the midst of so much learning and thinking and questioning; it is terrifying and thrilling. There are days I'd like to rewind the clock to before I wrestled with privilege and injustice. I’d like to unread and unlearn information that has left me wondering how me - this affluent, white, stay-at-home mom in the suburbs of Cincinnati - can possibly be part of reconciliation. Other days I want to shake myself because I spent so many years missing it, looking right past it.

In the spring of 2016, I began reading the book Seven. Oh, to this day, there are times I wish I could unread it. God knocked the wind out of me within the pages of that book, awakening me to the intensity and responsibility of the privilege I was born into.

Up until that day, I had thought very little of privilege and what it looked like in my life. I suppose when privilege is your norm, it is easy to miss.

But soon I saw it everywhere.

I saw privilege when I opened my fridge, stared at shelves full of food, and ordered pizza because I didn’t feel like eating anything we had.

I saw privilege when I put my contacts in each morning because I’ve had resources to correct my failing eyes for nearly 30 years.

I saw privilege when I handed in my letter of resignation, voluntarily leaving my job to stay home with my children.

I saw privilege when I was pulled over for a missing headlight and never considered a police officer might treat me unfairly. 

I saw privilege when I freely disagreed with colleagues and never thought twice that my race would be the backdrop for how others interpreted my words.

I saw privilege when our president was elected because as much as I hate how he speaks of the oppressed, I knew my day to day life would not be much different.

God put a fire in my gut the week I read that book, a restless stirring I haven’t been able to shake. I can’t stop reading and talking and asking questions. I can’t unlearn that I am in the top 1% of wealthiest people in the world, practically drowning in resources. I can’t pretend educational opportunities are the same for all children. I can’t ignore the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are desperately trying to come to America, and yet live such isolated lives once they are here. I can’t unsee the hate-filled eyes in those videos of Charlottesville.

This is my messy beginning, my shuffling along, fighting my way through the weeds, with my hands outstretched, asking God, "What now? What can you do with the hesitant offering of a woman prone to wander, resist, and cling to privilege? Can you dig it out by its ugly roots? Can you keep forgiving me? Can you make reconciliation my heart’s cry rather than an item on my to-do list?”

*****

During the past year, I have looped through a cycle of emotions regarding the abundant advantages in my life.

I am ignorant.
I am overwhelmed.
I am disgusted.
I am paralyzed.
I am afraid.
I am humbled, forgiven, and obedient.
Repeat.

Those first five stages are fruitless at best; sinful if I’m honest, and I need to deal with them as such. I need to call out the sin in my life.

I am ignorant. That is sin. Ignorance is choosing foolishness. It is looking away from truth and ignoring the mind God gave me for learning and questioning and engaging. Ignorance is choosing oblivion to global and national crises, excusing myself because it's too sad, it's too hard.

I am overwhelmed. That is sin. I am looking to my own ability to solve injustice rather than following the lead of Him who came to change the world through servanthood. I am sinking into defeat, rather than clinging to a God of victory. Nothing is impossible for Him, and to be overwhelmed is to disregard the power of the Holy Spirit who is alive and active in me. 

I am disgusted. That is sin. The Lord needed to bring me to a place of disgust, a harsh realization of my abundant privilege. But to stay in that place of guilt, apologizing for all I have, is to forget the One who gave it to me. He did not accidentally place me in this life, at this time in history, and He is not interested in my apologies for living in America, for being white, for being educated, or for succeeding in a career.

I am paralyzed. That is sin. The reality of injustice is so thick and so heavy, I get lost in it. And then I do nothing. I stay in my neighborhood and in my home, with my conveniences and luxuries. I hang out with people who look like me and think like me. We talk about how thankful we are Jesus came to do all that messy work, but disengage ourselves from real action. Pretty soon, doing nothing in my norm.

I am afraid. This is sin. Fear will lie to me every time, coaxing me to believe injustice is too much for my God. Fear tells me I will fail if I seek reconciliation. Fear tells me I will say the wrong thing and do the wrong thing. Fear tells me I will put myself in danger and be in over my head. Fear tells me I will upset people and annoy my friends. But God did not give me a spirit of fear, and to believe otherwise is sin.

I am humbled, forgiven, and obedient. Confronting my own selfishness is miserable, but once each of those daggers have been humbly laid down, I can claim Christ’s forgiveness and move on to obedience.

The Bible tells me to feel the pain of others. Be wrecked by injustice. Be burdened. The Bible tells me to pray, and not just on the days after horrific events like Charlottesville, but to get on my knees every day, crying out for the broken and forgotten, repenting from my sins and the sins of this nation. The Bible says to be faithful in prayer, be persistent, keep bugging God to shake my soul and not look away from oppressive systems that have handed me a life of advantage.

This doesn’t have to be an either/or approach. I can carry on with my daily life and remember the marginalized around me. I can write on my blog about eating dessert in the bathroom, and I can write about racial reconciliation. I can take my children to our community pool where they see dozens of children who look just like them, and I can take them to a church where they are the racial minority. My husband and I can celebrate special occasions at overpriced restaurants, and we can volunteer with the Cincinnati Refugee Resettle Program. I can go to the gym to teach Zumba classes, and I can learn to correctly pronounce the names of the minority women in my class, not just the white students. I can talk with my girlfriends about curtains and crockpot dinners and playdates, and we can talk about teaching our children to stand up for others. I can read Real Simple magazine, and I can read about how to love my friends of color well. I can pray with my children for God to heal their owies, and I can pray with my children for God to awaken their eyes and hearts to those who need love.

This isn’t a checklist. It isn’t more to add to my plate. It isn’t one or the other. It is awareness. It is courage. It is a transformation of my heart to move past the years I spent desiring peace and wishing well to those on the sidelines.

Jesus spent His life on the bottom rung of the ladder. He surrounded himself with the powerless, the outcasts, the bottom dwellers, the marginalized. By his own choosing, He never made it up past that bottom rung. But I was born on the top rung; I was born into a life so far from Jesus. White. American. Middle class. Educated. Excess everything. It is a life so many long for, but it is a life that has proven to be my greatest hindrance in knowing the true Jesus. It is so far from the Savior who said He was “close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18) and that “the highborn are but a lie” (Psalm 62:9). There is such a distance from me and the man who constantly cared for the widows, the orphans, the poor, and the needy. It is so much harder to “seek justice and encouraged the oppressed (Isaiah 1:17) from up on this top rung.

It’s ironic how you can read something a dozen times and always hope someone else is taking it
to heart. How did I miss it?

In every corner of the Bible, God is screaming, begging, pleading, urging me to love mercy and justice, to care for the last and least. If I’m going to believe the Bible is the Word of God, then it seems God is obsessed with social justice, and He asking me to stay engaged and join Him.

This is my messy beginning.

*****

A note from Mika, Amy, Precious, and Joy:

It has been a joy to share our hearts with you over the past month. The four of us have each been challenged, convicted, and inspired. We have each prayed earnestly for our readers, and for ourselves asking God to shake some souls and spur on conversations that would bring Him glory. We would love to end this series by praying for our nation, together pleading with God to heal and restore.

Oh Jesus,

We come before You with our mess. We acknowledge our sin and repent from it. We need You to do your thing. We need your power to bring change because we know we are powerless without You. I pray, God, that You would heal our nation and bring us to racial reconciliation. I pray that our hearts and minds would be changed and that change would lead to action. May our hearts break for the damage white supremacy has caused in our nation - that we would see it for the sin it is, and commit to not being complicit in it. I pray we would move outside our comfort zones, invite people into our homes that don’t look like us, and build relationships in an effort to reconcile.

I pray America would become comfortable with being uncomfortable and no longer shy away from our horrid past. I pray we would know that racial reconciliation is not simply a good option; it’s important to You. May our hearts remain pliable for You to mold and change; performing open heart surgery if necessary to make us into a people that not only embodies the ethos of reconciliation, but the life style. May our days be less comfortable and more courageous. May our love for You, Jesus, cause us to actively love our neighbors well.

I pray we would lay down our privilege to serve and to see. I pray we would open our hands and our eyes. We are in need of Your grace and Your grit to do and hear hard things. Lead us, Jesus. Please do exceedingly above what we ask.

Amen.


Chains fall
Fear bow
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything
Lives healed
Hope found
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything

Lyrics from Holy Ground

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

miseducation of privilege: week 3

The next post in our series comes from my friend, Precious Jones. There is so much honesty and so much wisdom in this essay. She challenged me to consider my passivity of privilege and moving toward of lifestyle of reconciliation rather that a quick fix. I continue to pray for each reader of this series. May God engage you heart and mind in a new way.



As a Black Christian woman I have more anxiety on the Sunday or Monday following tragic events such as the #Charlottesville attack because the work of racial reconciliation is exhausting.  The Sunday following Charlottesville (which happened to be less than 24 hours later), I remember being hopeful as I entered church that I would regain some of my sanity.  At least a little bit.  Thinking to myself,  this Sunday at least one non-person of color would come up to me and legitimize the concern I privately expressed to many.  I recounted the personal conversations held following the election of our President regarding his rhetoric and lack of empathy for non-whites.  At the time, I shared that I thought his views would give credence to those who held extremist and racist views to become hyper-visible and less concerned with "hiding" their views or their faces.  We witnessed that in #Charlottesville.

This was not a moment of wanting to be right.  This was a moment of wanting to be validated.  I wanted to feel sane, if only for a moment.  The context here is that I have spent countless hours listening, sharing, and praying with congregants and colleagues as we earnestly look to live reconciled.   Yet, I exited my phenotypically diverse church that day without a single conversation or acknowledgement from a white person.  I exited with increased ache in my heart.  I exited wondering how many more Sundays will I sit in this pew and wrestle with the passivity of privilege and the tone policing of my voice. I then hoped for a face to face conversation, text, phone call on Tuesday, Wednesday, or any day.  It did not occur.  Exhaustion enters stage right.

After reflecting on Amy's blog, How Do I Handle My Privilege, and her compelling question at the end which asked, "What privilege do you have, and how can you use it to serve the underprivileged?"  I stumbled upon a revelation.  

In the United States of America, privilege has been a silent teacher for hundreds of years.  Privilege, white privilege, for those who possess it, has taught that good things will come to them simply because of who they are - even if that good thing is racial reconciliation.  

Many would argue that hatred is a learned behavior.  I'd contend that just as hatred is taught, so is the passivity of privilege.  It is mostly taught without using words.  Privilege by its very nature is passive.  It demands absolutely nothing of its possessor. It teaches its possessor to protect it at all cost.  Privilege indirectly teaches that if one desires racial reconciliation, then it will be achieved by simply waiting for the "perfect, comfortable, opportunity" to have a difficult conversation, ask an awkward question, or get to know a person outside of your ethnicity.  Privilege has written thousands of history books and passed hundreds of laws. And with events like #Charlottesville, it waits patiently to reconcile.  We've been miseducated, and the western church has been an active pupil. 

Miseducation definition: a wrong or deficient education

Racial reconciliation is costly.  It takes work.  

Many desire racial reconciliation through a five-step process or a "quick read." I've had countless people ask me to give them a resource to navigate this difficult and messy space. For instance, there’s a local church in our city that offers a fantastic six week workshop on race which creates a safe space for people in the community to listen to one another, grow in empathy, and dialogue.  However, I’ve encountered many who’ve been content with attending this six week session and reference this as their “work” in racial reconciliation. I commend people for attending; however, when this session ends, the work of racial reconciliation doesn’t. If the only desire is a resource, racial reconciliation may not be realized.  It happens over time through empathy, honesty, contrition, and proximity.  Get close. Get uncomfortable. Get honest. 

If the American church desires to really model racial reconciliation, the Church must re-educate itself. Learn from Black folks.  Listen to Black folks.  Lament with Black folks.  Let Black folks lead.

I don't want a racial reconciliation that demands more of one follower of Christ than the other.  I pray that my encounter on the Sundays following tragic events are less anxious and more intentional.  As Amy stated in the previous blog, may we be known by what we lay down, rather than by any privilege we hold high.  

As a follower of Christ, I remain hopeful that racial reconciliation will occur in earnest as I continue to engage in uncomfortable conversations, love others where they are, and speak truth to power. I'm encouraged that others are doing the same.  I have not thrown in the towel on racial reconciliation. Each day I hold tightly to the hope I have in Christ, anchored by the reality of my desperate need for Jesus as I do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.
 
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:13 
Maybe the first act of laying down one's life is to lay down the passivity of privilege.

As we lay down our respective privilege, I pray that we build authentic relationships across multiple ethnic groups, help restore broken communities, and recognize systems that perpetuate marginalization for disadvantaged groups. May we use our power, resources, and influence to tear these oppressive systems down; decision by decision.  Racial Reconciliation, like sanctification (process of becoming more like Christ), is worked out daily.  It is not a one time act.  It is a lifestyle. 

The church has been "waiting" for racial reconciliation for too long.  Let's intentionally give differently, life differently, and love differently.  Not just in words, but in lifestyle.

May privilege be ousted as primary instructor in the work of racial reconciliation and be replaced by empathy that leads to action.

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God?"
   Micah 6:8 ESV

*****

Precious Jones is the proud daughter of parents who've known struggle. The familial impact of poverty and struggle shape her writing. She works in youth & education advocacy for those marginalized. She's a former Electrical engineer who delights in creating through writing. She is a proud southerner turned foodie who loves people more than she loves good food and a good read. She resides in Cincinnati, OH and candidly shares her predilections [bias, leaning, weakness, & predisposition] on her blog, Precious Predilections.

Friday, August 18, 2017

how do I handle my white privilege: week 2

The second post in our collaborative blog series comes from Amy Seiffert. In this essay, Amy talks honestly about how God has called her to use her white privilege to serve. Amy and I are joining two other women in this blog series, and it is our collective prayer that these essays will spark both conversation and courage to follow Christ's example of love.


"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for other?" -Martin Luther King, Jr.

My name is Amy, and I have white privilege. I was born into a white, middle class, educated family. I got a college degree and married a white male who also has his degree and is now a small business owner. We have three kids and reside in a predominately white neighborhood in a college town.

I deeply miss the diverse relationships I had in high school; we had various cultures, religions, and races in my friend circle. Korean, Black, Indian, Arabic, Mexican, White, Jewish, Hindu, Christian. I miss recognizing and celebrating diverse friendships, having the weeds of prejudice pulled from my white privilege perspective, and raising my children with a colorful and beautiful view of the world. 

I miss the daily academic environment where the table is set to have hard conversations. We had many respectful and robust discussions about our distinct heritages. We not only talked, we were in each others' home. I loved the food, the practices, the clothing, and the family life of my friends who were very different from me. My family now continues to cultivate relationships with other races that are around us, but we would love to - we need to -  cultivate more. The richness of other races in our lives grows such beauty, humility, understanding, joy, and hope. Our soul-soil is in great deficit when we close it off to any kind of vital diversity.

Privilege, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is: "a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people." Privilege can feel as obvious as our skin color and as subtle as our literacy. Even right now, if you are reading this blog, your literacy gives you advantage. I absolutely amen "education is a right, not a privilege" - but we can agree, for those who can read, these is an absolute upper hand.

And today, as I come together with four different kinds of women, writing four diverse kinds of blog posts about privilege, race, ethnicity, reconciliation, fear, hopes, and dreams - we also have one common denominator:

Jesus.

I sit humbled and thankful that King Jesus is King of a colorful Kingdom. His rule and reign is one where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord when it's all said and done. "Every" being the game-changer. We will not be segmented under His rule, we will come under one allegiance, and we will all bow down on the same, level ground next to the cross.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothes in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God. -Revelation 7:9-11

King Jesus had stunning leadership regarding privilege. He was enthroned in glory, fully God, crowned in all comfort. And He laid it all down. He put down His rights, His throne, His everything. Nothing was taken with Him when He took up human skin and moved into the neighborhood. Paul explains this beautifully.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death - and the worst kind of death at that - a crucifixion. -Philippians 2:5-8 MSG

It is temping to forget that this is GOD who lived this way. Setting the pace for the good life, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave. He took up a towel, got down on His knees, and washed grimy feet. He served his heart out, to the point of death. 

And so when it circles back to us, to me, I have a big question to answer: What do I specifically do with my white privilege? I often freeze just thinking about my advantages, I feel guilty about them, or I hide them because I don't know how to handle them well. I want to weed out the prejudices in the garden of my heart and sow seeds of racial reconciliation; I feel sad and embarrassed when I find incongruities in my soul. Who can help us in handling our white privilege?

Praise be to God! If we take our cues from the King, we will find the answer. We don't have to struggle or hide or be perfect with our privilege. Like Jesus, we simply lay them down to serve.

After some soul-searching, just one of the ways my entire family can lay down our white privilege and serve the underprivileged is begin a Licensed Foster Care Family. Before you object in your heart and think "that's for saints" - please reconsider. Those who foster are not saints, they simple have a safe home. The requirement to foster is very basic: a safe environment.

At different times this past year, we have laid down our routines, our comforts, our possessions, and had children in our home for short periods of time (we have done short-term Respite Care), giving a sweet child (we've housed Hispanic, black, and white children) a safe place to be in the middle of insanity. In the middle of abuse. In the middle of drugs. 

Do we lay aside our white privilege perfectly? Absolutely not. Do we try to by faith? Yes. Even if it's the size of a peppercorn. This is the way King Jesus lived, always by faith. He came down by faith, He laid aside everything by faith, He died by faith  - faith in the resurrection to come.

I often have the famous phrase "With great privilege comes great responsibility," running through my mind. And I can freeze. But, friends, if you also freeze - let's unthaw together and simply serve. Let's serve in as many ways as we can. Serve in little ways and great ways. Serve with our voices when we see injustice and serve with our actions when we see helplessness. Serve using our strength for the weak and leveraging our power for the vulnerable.

What privilege do you have, and how can you use it to serve the underprivileged?

May we be known by what we lay down, rather than by any privilege we hold high. 

*****

Amy Seiffert is a wife of 17 years and mom of 3, who never thought she would love raising her family in a small college town. She words at Brookside Church as the Director of Outward Movement and has the privilege of occasionally preaching. Amy loves tennis, ice cream, and making beautiful things. In between diaper changes, laundry, and soccer practice, she writes, blogs, speaks, and is working on her book on motherhood. She has been in a monthly book club for 17 years and cannot believe Oprah has not brought them on her show. Amy inspires, teachers, and humble relates to the mystery and messiness of life. She tells all at www.amyseiffert.com


Saturday, August 12, 2017

perspectives on privilege & racial reconciliation: week 1

A few months ago, my dear friend Mika came to me with an idea. I love when Mika has ideas.

She invited me to be part of a blog collaboration on the topic of racial reconciliation and privilege. The Lord has used a number of circumstances over the past year to awaken my eyes and heart to the marginalized in our world. Rather than apologizing for the life of privilege God has given me, I am now seeing ways He asks me to use my privilege to speak up rather than look away. I refuse to believe Satan's lie that this problem is too big, too heavy, and is better to just ignore. Writing is one way I speak up.

It is my great honor to welcome Mika as a guest writer to 44 & Oxford. She is getting us started by sharing her heart for this collaboration. Over the next month, you will hear from myself and two other beautiful women on the topics of privilege and racial reconciliation.



By Guest Writer, Shamika Karikari

Heather and Holly were the first friends I made in school. It was back in 1990 when I was 5 years old and in kindergarten. They were also twins which made our friendship extra special for my twin sister and me. And they were white. I could not have anticipated that our afternoon kindergarten class at Becker Elementary would be the beginning of my ability to build genuine friendships across race. 

From a young age I noticed segregated spaces around me. I vividly remember my twin sister and I often being the only Black faces in a sea of white spaces. We had a way of making white people feel comfortable. Some of this rubbed off from our parents who were always open to white people, even when the gesture was not returned. We dated white boys, had white friends over for dinner and sleepover, and my parents were unfazed. Looking back, I see how my upbringing forced me to navigate white spaces with ease and confidence, but also at a cost. The cost of giving up some of me in order to be more palatable to white people was high. I didn't have the language to articulate this then, but now I understand that tension more deeply.

As an adult, I see the racial divide continues. Although I haven't been called a nigger, I have experienced other racial slurs and microaggressions. In recent years I have witnessed countless Black women and men killed by police officers for being Black. People like Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Sam DuBose, Mike Brown, and the list goes on and on. Our Black skin continues to be reason enough to be feared. 

I've organized spaces to grieve these unjust deaths. 

I've participated in discussions to process these unjust deaths. 

I've protested these unjust deaths. 

And yet, I still have a desire to do more. I've felt God lay on my heart the role I should play in regards to racial reconciliation in the Christian community. 

I go to a church whose values are devotion, discipleship, and diversity. 
I have Christian friends of many races. 
And yet, the divide still feels great. 
Sometimes the weight of racial division in the U.S. feels so great I'm left paralyzed to do anything.
And I think a lot of us can agree with that feeling. 
We think the problem is too big, so we do nothing. 
And although this is an easy place to land, I know God has called me to do more.
To trust him to bring racial reconciliation to our community and for me to do my part in that. 

So I asked myself, what could I do in my sphere of influence? What could my contribution be? I love writing and love people; why not start there? And this is how this blog collaboration was born. Since I write in my blog, albeit infrequent, I know I have a diverse readership, which isn't something I see often. Typically I see blogs that either speak to white women or women of color. I rarely find writing that intentionally has both in mind. I wanted to change that, so I decided to bring three of my friends along for the journey. Precious, Amy, & Joy are all insightful and engaging writers who love Jesus. They are women I admire, women I trust, and women whose lights shine brightly. These are the type of women everyone deserves to hear from. We each committed to write an essay focused around themes of racial reconciliation and privilege from our unique lived experiences. We also committed to share the other three posts on our respective blogs so our readers are exposed to multiple perspectives.

A four week blog series isn't going to end systemic racism or racial division; however, I know God has called me to do something, and I will obey. As well, I know God can and does use us to advance his kingdom even if I have no clue what the outcome of this collaboration will be. God has only asked me to have a willing heart and trust him to do the rest. And that's what I'm going to do - follow God's prompting and trust he will use four women to begin conversation around racial reconciliation because God's heart is to see his people unified and reconciled.

So as you journey with us, I pray your heart will be open to what God wants to reveal to you.

I pray you would open your heart to each of our perspective that were uniquely designed by God.

I pray you are empowered to do something based on your role in racial reconciliation.

I pray you would be quick to listen and slow to speak.

How gracious of God to use someone as broken as me for his glory. How will he use you?


*****

Mika Karikari is a proud Black woman who loves Jesus, baking, sports, and writing. She currently spends most of her time reading and writing for her PhD program in higher education administration. She lives in her beloved hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio with her handsome husband. Mika's writing can be found on her blog, I am Enough. It currently focuses on grief, social justice, poetry, and faith.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

all this from deodorant


I turned 34 in January, and Stephen bought me a six-pack of deodorant.

I'd been out of deodorant for over a week and was using his Old Spice. I didn't mind, but apparently, he did.

Gifts aren't my thing. I'm crummy at giving them, and a spoilsport when receiving them. I like practical gifts that equate to a crossed off item from my to-do list; in this case, buy deodorant. It is tempting to blame this lame attitude on the busyness of motherhood, but sadly, I've been like this for years.

Soon after Stephen and I were married, his mom gave me a jumbo pack of paper towels and toilet paper as a Christmas gift. She did this as a joke, but I was overjoyed. Last year she gave me cleaning supplies, and this past Christmas she wrapped up diapers for our two-year-old son. Best. Gift. Ever.

A year-long supply of Secret deodorant was speaking my love language. I thanked Stephen, and then opened the card tucked away in the bottom of the bag. As much as I adored my deodorant, this card contained unexpected life-giving words. I froze. I reread. 

"I'm taking the kids to Columbus this weekend. You will have approximately 30 hours at home by yourself. Pour some wine, turn on Netflix, and eat any food you want without having to share with the kids!"

Come Saturday morning, I shooed the three of them out by 9. I waved good-bye from the front porch, both giddy with excitement and overwhelmed by freedom. I walked back inside ready to fulfill my first fantasy: a clean floor. I swept the kitchen and gleefully anticipated the beauty of thirty crumb-free hours.

I showered - with no interruptions - and then opened my new deodorant. I hadn't used Secret since I started buying my own deodorant. The past fourteen years have seen more Suave or whatever's-on-sale deodorant. Stephen had sprung for the deluxe; it was my birthday after all.

I lifted the lid and popped off the plastic protective shield. The smell rushed me back to my childhood bathroom. I could see my 3-inch curling iron forcing the tips of my hair outward. I could see my hot pink Caboodle bursting with Lip Smackers and an extensive Bath and Body Works collection lining the counter. I could see myself buckling the strap of my overalls, choosing from an array of chokers, and slipping into Doc Martins to complete the ensemble.

I love remembering that girl, and it is much easier to do when I am alone. I closed up the deodorant and went down to our basement. I moved a stack of heavy boxes until I found the one I wanted, tucked in the back and near the bottom. At least a dozen journals dating back to second grade were lined up like soldiers in that box. I pulled a few out. No plans? No interruptions? It seemed like the perfect time to curl up, do some reading, and hang out with that girl.

*****

Over the past few months, I have been thinking about childhood and adulthood, and the pages of those journals brought clarity to my fragmented thoughts. Sometimes I think that girl is lost, but as I read about her day to day drama, I remembered life when I spent time doing what I enjoyed. Brilliant. There was work time and play time, and I was good at both.

But I'm not sure how those pieces of who I used to be can still fit into who I am and who I am becoming.

I used to think adulthood was about moving on and leaving behind silly pastimes of childhood. I felt foolish, even embarrassed, when I wondered what happened to all the fun. Fun? Pastimes? Grow up. I was convinced I needed to created a new mature self. It was all rather thrilling at first, embarking on independent territory, finally doing whatever it was adults did that seemed so mysterious. But after a solid decade of trying, rethinking, examining, and transforming into adulthood, I am beginning to think I've got it all wrong.

Maybe adulthood isn't about leaving behind and moving ahead.

Maybe I don't need to create a new grown-up Joy.

Maybe I need to rediscover a former self, sort through to find the best, and settle in for the long haul. That's what I'm doing right now - sorting through and settling in.

I am participating in Coffee + Crumbs' Year of Creativity, and one of our first assignments was to reflect on this question: "What were some of your favorite creative activities as a child?"

When I was younger, I loved to write. I found hours to lay on the floor and write through life. I wrote dozens of notes to all my friends to be delivered the next day at school. I filled journals and notebooks with real stuff and trivial stuff. I wrote about what it meant to love Jesus and about when each of my girlfriends got their first period. I wrote about how I wanted to be skinny and about how much I loved this boy named Dan. It all mattered.

When I was younger, I loved to dance. The dance studio and stage were my happy places, but I was equally content to pump up Janet Jackson on the 6-disc stereo system in the basement and choreograph fourteen different music videos to Rhythm Nation. I could choreograph an entire dance in my head as I lay in bed, sometimes slipping out of the covers to mark a few steps in my dark bedroom. I leapt through parking lots, tap danced while brushing my teeth, and can still bust out a rather impressive full body roll in the passenger seat of a car. My dad and brother made a rule that I couldn't dance at the dinner table, so when the rhythm hit me, I would stand up and dance next to the table. My shimmy and shake just couldn't be stopped.

When I was younger, I loved being around kids. I planned summer camps for the kids in our neighborhood. I volunteered in children's church and worked as a camp counselor. I was the babysitter who came with a bag full of fun, and if there were no real kids to entertain, I'd enlist a handful of make believe children to participate in crafts and science experiments. I dreamed of being a teacher and had the greatest classroom on the block set up in my basement, complete with a lesson plan book, math textbooks, and an overhead projector. Kids were my jam.

When I was younger, I thought a lot about food. I figured this meant I was destined to be overweight my entire life because none of my size-two friends ever seemed to think about food. I didn't know about cooking or menu planning or entertaining, but I flipped through cookbooks and magazine to dogear recipes. I rarely made any of these dishes but still loved to look.

What if these were more than just hobbies or memories from my childhood? What if God intended for me to write and dance and create and love children and um...eat, all my life?

I look around at 34, and there are surprising similarities to 16.

Yesterday, I got up early and spent an hour writing. A few hours later I taught a Zumba class that included a new salsa dance I choreographed last weekend. I took my kids to the park, and we did some crafting and Popsicle making when we got home. During their nap time, I planned lessons for a kindergarten and first grade jumpstart camp I'm teaching next week. And later in the day, I made a new recipe for dinner - citrus marinated pork tenderloin with a mint pesto.

I couldn't see how each of these passions had a place in my life during my twenties. I thought I had to let them go, particularly if they didn't lend themselves to an income. But I was wrong.

One by one, they have each found their way back to me at just the right time. I love the thought that my childhood passions are still there, woven into my soul, eager to resurface and forgive me for the years they were neglected.

All this from deodorant.

I wonder what would happened if I opened a bottle of CK1.



Monday, July 10, 2017

why lu and beth are rocking my world

I would like to introduce you to my friend, Beth. Although if you've been around 44 & Oxford for awhile, you have met her before.



She is the one who invited me for pancakes when I had no friends.

She is the one who fixed my shelves when interior decorating gave me hives.

And she and her hubby were the ones who hosted Smokefest 2015, twelve glorious hours of meat smoking, pie making goodness. 

Our paths first crossed in 2009 during a class at our church for young married couples. We were both young and both married; surely we'd be compatible. We made casual small talk for a few years, and I always wanted to be her friend. She was witty and confident and had the cutest curly-headed little boy I had ever seen. It only took four years, but she eventually called me. All of her friends had left Oxford, and I'm pretty sure she was lonely. It worked out well because all my friends had also left Oxford, and I was lonely too. It wasn't the most thrilling of pick up lines; she asked me to help her plan the women's event at our church. I was kinda hoping for something more like tacos and margaritas, but I said yes right away. She was surprised and said she was prepared to whoo me into agreement by taking me out for pancakes. Now you're talking. I said yes again. It was during this breakfast date that I learned Beth cuts her entire stack of pancakes into small bites before she begins eating. It's so cute.

A few weeks ago, Beth's first novel, Lu. was released.



I feel so proud and so impressed I could just burst. We've spent countless hours over the past two years talking about writing and what it looks to write when you're a mom of young kids and what it means to obey God and trust God in your writing. We've talked about how to write when you don't feel like it and how to write when no one is reading it. I love talking about writing with Beth, but mostly I love talking about life with her. She's the real deal - honest, messy, present, committed, and doing it with confidence that she is loved by God.

Last summer Beth showed up at my door with the first draft of her book.

It was good.

Like really good.

Like I-can't-believe-I-know-the-person-who-wrote-this good.

I want you to hear from Beth, and I want you to hear about this story. Then I want you to buy this story and read it and give it someone. (Or enter to win two copies below!) I believe in this story, and am joining alongside Beth in prayer "for the girls who are looking but still haven't found - this one's for you."

*******
This "interview" took place at Beth's house on a Thursday morning with five children underfoot. We were interrupted no less than fifty seven times by these darlings despite our unashamed attempts to quiet them with yogurt tubes, Netflix, and monkey bread. 

Joy: Hi Beth.

Beth: Hi.

Joy: Your son is riding his bike in the street.

Beth: Oh shoot. Be right back. (Timeout.) Ok, go ahead.

Joy: Hi Beth.

Beth: Hi Joy.

Joy: Now my daughter is drawing with chalk on the side of your house.

Beth: That's fine.

Joy: OK, I have some early memories of meeting you at church. What are some of your early memories of our friendship?

Beth: I remember you came and talked to me after church one Sunday, and you were wearing a cute wide belt.

Joy: I was? What color belt? Black?

Beth: I don't remember.

Joy: I only have one. It must have been the black one. I never wear that anymore.

Beth: Oh you should. It was cute. Then there was this period of time we only knew each other by mutual friends, so we had a good year or two of awkward encounters - the kind where you don't know if you need to reintroduce yourself or if you remember one another. I also saw you at the wine festival when you were pregnant with Charlotte, and I kept watching you to see if you'd drink any wine.

Joy: Did I?

Beth: No. Rule follower.

Joy: Right after that was when I came to your house to borrow a maternity dress - the one with the pockets.

Beth: Yes! All dresses should have pockets! But we really didn't become friends until 2014 when my friends moved away and your friends moved away, and we were the only ones left in Oxford. I guess we were each other's B list, but it turned out alright.

Joy: You will forever be the friend who taught me to love pancakes. Before you, I would have said that pancakes were just fine. I didn't know what I was missing. What are your secrets to a really good pancake?

Beth: Definitely! Number one: Use a hot cast iron pan. Number two: Use butter in the pancake batter but cook them in canola oil.

Joy: Wait. Really? I didn't know that one!

Beth: Oh, Joy. Yes, you need to cook them in canola oil. Number three: Use a recipe that calls for buttermilk. Don't pay any attention to expiration dates, especially if this is the only thing you're buying buttermilk for. It's sour milk anyways. And number four: Let the batter rest for at least a half hour. I don't know why, but I think it makes them fluffier. There might be a scientific explanation, but I'm not a scientist. I'm a writer.

Joy: And I am living proof that this will take your pancake making to a whole new level. I have many memories of sitting at your kitchen table eating pancakes and talking about your book. So now, let's talk about Lu. You've always wanted to write a book. Why this story?

Beth: I always loved reading. When I became a Christian in college, I was excited because it opened up a whole new world of books. But when I went to that market, I was disappointed. The female characters were either too good or too bad.

Joy: But you love Redeeming Love, right?

Beth: (Looking like I'd lost my mind.) Who doesn't love Redeeming Love? But in so many books, I felt like I knew where the plot was going. And when I went to non Christian fiction, I was reading about girls I didn't want to be - girls who were sleeping around, spending money - I didn't like that either. I wanted to find a book where the main girl was a girl I wanted to hang with. It was this character that drew me to writing.

Joy: You started this book seven years ago, but set it aside - which is my nice of saying you quit. Talk to me about that.

Beth:  Yeah, I started writing this book seven years ago. I quit my job to do it, and I put my son in daycare. And then I tortured out seven chapters. It was painstaking. I was unsatisfied, and I was haunted by what success looked like. I thought I'd never reach it. The writing wasn't coming, and I thought if I couldn't get someone to publish this, I was a big, fat failure. So I stopped writing. I failed.

Now I know those seven chapters were a self ambition to glorify my name and make me great. It was necessary that I lay it down completely to get back on the path God had for me. I told God I would never write again unless it was for Him. I thought my writing days were done; I thought I was laying it down for good.

Joy: What happened in those seven years?

Beth: When God called me back to writing three years ago, I spent a full year wrestling with Him. He was saying it was go time, and I was resistant to it. I was nervous about the past, so I was dragging my feet. I feared my past self more than I feared God. But He has a way of frustrating your life when He wants you to do something. It was easier for me to lay my writing down at His feet seven years ago than it was to pick it back up again. I was more comfortable with God as disciplinary than redeemer.

When I finally took that step in faith, not a step to write, but a step to believe He had changed me, to believe the Beth that was sitting down to write this book was a new person, He proved each day how deeply He had healed me. Writing was hard, but it was also deeply satisfying. That kind of contentment and sanctification come from God's hand. You can't conjure that yourself.

Joy: You said "When God called me back to writing." Can you be more tangible and explain what that looked like?

Beth: He put writing in the forefront of my mind. When I laid it down, my prayer was that God would take that desire away. I didn't want to want it anymore. I asked Him to take away any desire that wasn't in keeping with Him. He did this. He took away desires like living in a beautiful house, living in an adventurous place, having a massive bank account, traveling - typical American dream stuff. Over time, I didn't care much about those things. But my desire to write was always there. And it suddenly became persistent; it moved up in the ranks, constant knocking and telling me it was go time.

Joy: You said God frustrated your life. How so?

Beth: I stopped getting enjoyment in other things. Work that had been satisfying wasn't anymore. I also became very envious of my friends who were seizing their dream - like you. I remember when you started this blog. It was something you had wanted to do, and you did it. I was choosing not to, but I saw friends who were. Envy usually isn't a struggle for me. I like to be in the front row clapping, but suddenly I was backed into the corner I had made. God was asking me to write again, but I was too scared.

Joy: I know that most of this book was written between 4 and 6 am. How did you manage that, especially as a mom of three boys?

Beth: This is hard, especially for moms. We have these dreams we want to see accomplished, and as moms, we never want to put the family out. We want to work around them. But in order to do something like a blog or a book or anything big, you have to claim some things for yourself. That is why for me, I needed to claim a name , claim a space, and claim time. For my family dynamic and my natural energy, I had to get up early. There were times the alarm went off, and I didn't want to get up, but I knew that if I didn't get up, I wouldn't write that day. The family did take a hit. I'm not the hottest ticket in town, especially come 7 pm. There were also mornings my oldest came down at 6:30, but he came with a book because he knows I write until 7. I'm OK with that. They get a lot of me the rest of the day.

Joy: What is your hope for this book?

Beth: I hope that a woman who has discounted the idea of God will pick up this book and see the other side to this argument. Because that was me at age 18. Lu, at her core is seeking. She is doubting. She has a lot of questions, and she's smart and independent. She is searching but won't buy something hook, line, and sinker. There is a layering to her journey. She needs to be hit on emotional levels but also on intellectual levels. There is a part in the book where she is challenged to read her Bible. "Just because you read it as a child, doesn't mean it's childish." Christians are thinkers. She needs to discover that Scripture is viable.

I absolutely believe God had me write this book because somewhere there is a girl who needs to read this book and will be saved. I don't know her name but God does. I have stopped praying that it will reach that one because I know it will. Instead, my prayer is that I will know about it.

The numbers are out there. What if I only have 5 likes or only sell 200 books or never recoup my investment? God didn't promise I would. He gave me story and told me to write to reach that girl. So I am praying for her, that she will find this story.

Joy: When I read novels, I often wonder how much of the story the author knew ahead of time. Was this entire story mapped out or was it more of a "bird by bird" kind of thing?

Beth: I had a very basic arch - how a modern woman who looks like you and me would find God.  I knew I wanted her life turning upside down in a way our lives turn upside down, I wanted failed relationships and a failed job. I knew she would put all her eggs in one basket- this city, this job, this guy. But what would happen when that didn't work? And that is where we find Lu at the beginning of the book.

The rest went chapter by chapter. I always knew the next thing to write, but I never knew beyond that. I knew God called me to write this story from the time I was in grad school, but I didn't know how. I did know that obeying God in this book was a daily discipline. So I set my alarm for 4, and I showed up to see what God was going to do, to see what he would have each character do and how it would all come together. It was an adventure. Chances are if there are things in the book that took you by surprise, it took me by surprise too. I became more comfortable with the unknown.

Joy: So what's next?

Beth: Book 2. Which was  a surprise to me. I intended to write one, but the story needed a book two. It was great to write how a woman comes to faith, but book two is about how a woman grows in her faith and how she takes ownership of it. It is a different type of story to write and fun because I get to put her  in a lot of awkward situations. There is tension because the Bible says you're made new, but you're made new in your same old world. Book 2 is the story of how Lu navigates that.

Joy: We also get to find out about the guy, yes?

Beth: Yes. (Insert mischievous smile.)

Joy: Anything else you wanna talk about?

Beth: Well, it must be really exciting to hang out with someone who wrote a book. So let me ask you, what is it like being friends with an author?

Joy: Oh my. Yes, great question. Well, we get to talk about your book all the time, so that's really fun. And last summer, you brought me a copy of your book in a three ring binder the day before I left on vacation. I was the only one with a three-ring binder and pen in my hand at the beach. You also let me pick a favorite head shot from like 47 choices, and you sent me tons cover designs but didn't even pick my favorite.

Beth: Whoa. I sound intense.

Joy. Totally, but we do other exciting stuff too, like pick paint colors for your writing room, talk about blog designs, and plan a book release party. You did forget to send me an invitation to the book release party, but that's alright, I got a text. You also asked to set up a book table at my husband's birthday party, and made me take your author photos. But those turned out so poorly we had to stop after five minutes and hire a real photographer. It isn't always glitz and glam, but at least you make me really good chocolate chip pancakes.

 *****


You guys, I love this book. You will too, so go get your hands on a copy.

You can enter below to win two signed copies of Lu. I'm giving away two copies to one winner so you can read one and give the other to a friend. And then you can go buy more copies here. The winner will be announced on Friday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
There were a few verses Beth clung to during the writing of Lu. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 was one of those verse.



Click here 
for your free print of this verse.

And be sure to hang out with Beth on her website.

 "I wasn't much different than other girls - wading into each new day to walk the familiar streams of who we think we are and where we think we're going. But sometimes the light breaks on the surface in a new way, and we spy a shadow of the unseen that causes a break ... "
-Lu.



Trying to act cool at the book release party.

But we were kinda freaking out.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

because one day you won't

Two years ago, I walked into my bathroom to find this.



Charlotte's Croc filled with acorns.

There is no story behind this photo, no explanation other than this is what happens when children live in your home. I laughed when I saw it, which is a blessing because had it been a different day or different hour I might have thrown those acorns away and chucked the shoe into her room, annoyed with how her stuff invades every corner. But on that day, at that moment, I loved it. It was quirky, confusing, and so childlike, so perfect. I took a picture because one day she won't leave a shoe filled with acorns in my bathroom.

Every so often, I've thought of that picture and try to mentally dogear other moments that ooze with childhood. But now I can't remember most of them. I wish I had written some down. I wish I had taken a picture.

Some have been ridiculous scenes, announcing to the world that children have been busy living in this home.

Some have been irritating moments, reminding me I laid down my preferences when I chose to be a mom.

And some moments have been so precious they steal my breath to whisper,  "Yes, you really are a mom."

I want to notice those moments. I want to remember those snippet of life.

Because one day she won't lay on the floor doing puzzles in her rain boots and underwear; she won't decorate every dresser knob in her room with a sock, and she won't ask if we can buy matching dresses.



Because one day he won't spread out blankets and pretend to be a pig rolling in the mud; he won't insist on sleeping with trucks in his bed, and he won't ask "You go oomba?" each time he sees me grab my neon yellow Zumba shoes.



Today I will notice those moments.


#becauseonedayyouwont


Thursday, May 4, 2017

stolen tulips & bbq chicken salad



It was Mother's Day 2007. Stephen and I had been married just over a year and living in a spacious but sketchy apartment in the suburbs of Chicago. We invited my parents, my brother and his wife, and both of my grandmas into our apartment for a three-tiered tower of various bruschetta and an absurd amount of this salad.



California Pizza Kitchen had been a family favorite in my childhood home, and despite the extensive pizza offerings on their menu, my mom always gravitated toward this salad. I was able to hunt down the recipe, and it was a perfect choice for Mother's Day lunch.

Stephen and I decorated our tiny table with a lovely, yet stolen, bouquet of purple tulips. I do not condone stolen tulips, but our budget barely left room for chicken breasts let alone fresh flowers. So we got creative - or perhaps unlawful. There was a community of "luxury" townhomes nearby with an enormous display of tulips surrounding their entrance sign. On our way home from church (from church!), Stephen pulled into the entrance and u-turned around the large island of tulips, setting up our car for a quick getaway. He sprung into action, flying out of the driver's side door and yanking up tulips in a manic fashion. He dove back into the car with a mass of flowers clutched against his chest, threw them in my direction, and squealed out as he shut his door. I was stunned by the speed and agility I had just witnessed.

I started to wonder if he had stolen tulips before.

We were so cute. You see those purple tulips? I didn't pay for those...

BBQ Chicken Salad
Adapted from California Pizza Kitchen
Serves 4 as a main dish

The chicken in this salad is best served cold, so I would recommend grilling it the night before or earlier in the day. However, I don't always plan ahead that well. The salad will still be delicious if your chicken is warm or room temperature.

Also, the fried tortilla chips are fun to make at home and can be made ahead of time; however, if the idea of making your own tortilla strips is a total turnoff, you can buy these in bags at the grocery story. No shame.


Grilled Chicken
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • about 1/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce 
Get your grill set for medium heat.

Mix the olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, and salt. Pour over the chicken and let it marinade at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes on each side.

Let the chicken cool and cut it into cubes. Toss with BBQ sauce and keep chilled. 


Tortilla Strips
  • about 12 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2 inch wide strips
  • vegetable or canola oil for deep frying
Using a heavy frying pan, heat a couple inches of oil. Carefully add strips and submerge into the oil with a metal slotted spoon. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Carefully lift out of the oil using a slotted spoon and let them drain on a paper towel.


Salad
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cleaned, dried, and chopped
  • 1/2 head Romaine lettuce, cleaned, dried and chopped
  • 12 large basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 pound jicama, cut into matchsticks (see below)
  • 1-2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can sweet corn, rinsed and drained (even better if you grill some corn alongside the chicken!)
  • big handful chopped cilantro
  • 1 pound tomatoes, diced - or cherry tomatoes cut in half 
  • about 1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • about 1 cup of your favorite ranch dressing
***I buy jicama in the produce section at Kroger, so hopefully you can find it at your grocery store. It is a large, round root vegetable that looks similar to a turnip. However, its flavor and texture is somewhere between a potato and pear. Just try it. You'll like it.

To assemble the salad, mix the lettuce, basil, jicama, cheese, black beans, corn, cilantro, ranch dressing, and half the tortilla strips. Top the salad with tomatoes, chicken, the rest of the tortilla strips and drizzle with BBQ sauce.




And I would like to formally apologize to the fancy townhome community down the road from Country Glenn Apartments in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

We should not have stolen your beautiful tulips, even if there were hundreds.
Even if we had no money.
Even if it was Mother's Day.
Even if the entrance sign by our apartments only had cigarette buds and old condoms.
No excuses.
I'm sorry, and I owe you some tulips.
Or some BBQ chicken salad.


P.S. This is another except from the book I am writing for my children