Warrior On, Peacemakers

To my fellow peacemakers. To the weary and burdened among us. To those of you listening and learning. To those who lament.

We have heard stories of injustice, racial profiling, and racism for years. None of it is new. Thanks to camera phones and social media, we can now bear witness to these stories like never before. It is difficult to take in so much pain and ugliness, but for those who have been screaming into the abyss of doubt, dismissal, and apathy for years, there is a sense of relief.

Week after week, as new accounts emerge, our long history of dismissal and doubt gets chipped away.

We have to be careful though. If we only watch injustice unfold on the stage of social media, we will be left feeling more separate, divided, and confused than ever. Don’t let this be your only lens. If you feel like things are worsening, they’re not. The division and pain have always been there. 

We have a deep wound in this nation. A wound we have only attempted to bandage.

In order to move toward healing in this nation, white people, in particular, need to listen and observe. Sit with people. Make space for their stories and perspectives. Sit in discomfort. Allow their thoughts and views to be challenged by people who have different life experiences.

We can talk about hard things. We need to. It’s taken hundreds of years to get to this point, and it’s not going to heal overnight. But each person can make a difference. One person at a time, one interaction at a time, one movement toward greater understanding and unity at a time.

Warrior on fellow peacemakers.

When Social Media Engagements Encourage and Connect You

I’ve never done this before, but I wanted to share an excerpt from an online conversation I just had. I’ve had some great discussions on the topic of race and racism on a friends page, and this exchange was the inspiration for my first podcast episode.

After a seemingly fruitless attempt to engage dialogue with a man who had criticised this video about the historical root of the term Caucasian, I was wisely advised by a fellow Facebook commenter not to waste time on people who want to remain ignorant. After telling him about my commitment to speak into these things, I was asked to share the story about the deconstruction process that led me into anti-racism activism.  The following was my response (as read on my new podcast Ooh, She’s Speaking)

 

“On one hand, I would say my deconstruction has taken decades, but the bulk of it has really taken place over the last few years.

I’ve claimed myself as an “anti-racist” for decades, and I truly believed I was. But now that I have gone through the bulk of this deconstruction, I can look back and say that I was very mistaken. My intentions were decent, but I had zero understanding of how much I had been shaped by external narratives. I had no real knowledge of history in this nation. I grew up raised and heavily relating to my Native American ancestry, so I had a solid amount of dislike for our founding as well as a severe distrust of our government, but even that wasn’t enough.

I held firmly to the ethic of the individual and subscribed to the idea that being “colorblind” was an enlightened perspective. I became a Christian in my early 20s and felt a strong call to racial reconciliation within the church, but I had absolutely no idea how to approach it. I didn’t understand race, the creation of the concept, the deep roots of white supremacy and how it absolutely saturated medicine, academia, our justice system, and the way we live and relate to one another to this day.

I truly believed that we lived so segregated out of preference. I thought that we could just get along if our minds were open enough. I saw people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as opportunists, Malcolm X as a hateful man and I blamed them for the division. I looked up to the whitewashed view of a peaceful, docile MLK Jr. I never once questioned how or why I came to those conclusions, and if I’m honest, I probably just assumed it was by my own brilliant, enlightened thinking. But I understand now.

My most significant turning point came when I started learning about the difference between American Christianity and the Bible. As my entire concept of “church” shifted, as I came to the realization that we are so bound to tradition simply because it’s the tradition, other things started to fall away as well. Cultural norms, race… all of it. It was perfect timing really. My white family had moved and was living in a predominantly black neighborhood, I was questioning everything about what formed my perspectives and why I held the beliefs I did, I was being moved into more in-depth work on racism, and my eyes were open to injustice all around.

The icing on the cake was when I was finally given permission to get off my butt and start speaking out. Until then, I didn’t really know where I fit. I actually needed my friends of color to tell me that they were tired of taking on the fight, tired of talking to people and hearing the same old crap and that they wanted white people to start doing the heavy lifting.

Since then, I’ve been hosting dinner party/discussions, speaking openly about racism, and most importantly-reading, listening and learning from people of color.

Here’s the thing that blows my mind. It took me moving my white family into a predominantly black neighborhood, spending years listening and observing, developing deep friendships with people of color (I can’t tell you how many white people ask how to even meet people and do that), going to events and classes, and being part of a racial reconciliation group- to even begin to see what my friends of color have known all their lives!

It’s breathtaking, and I know it will be my work for the rest of my days on this earth. But I know that reconciliation is the heart of god, and I have experienced a depth of love and grace and beauty, heaven on earth, as I have pursued this work, bridged gaps, and worked toward unity. ”

 

Clearly, I am long-winded, but I was so excited that someone was curious enough to ask me to share my story, excited that they felt I would be open to doing so, and honored to share it.

 

The Holiness of Dissatisfaction

Life is full of pain and dissatisfaction, and we live in a society that tells us pain and dissatisfaction are bad. We try to make ourselves feel better with clothes, books, drinks, habits, and addictions. People, companies, and industries are making millions by feeding our sense of dissatisfaction and then selling us the “cure.”

At one time, I craved the cure above all else.

I had just moved back to the United States from an overseas assignment when I hit my lowest point. I was a fairly new mom to twin toddlers and found myself living through a home renovation that spanned years. I was spread thin and struggling with dissatisfaction on every level.

Pull a chair up to The Glorious Table to read the rest of the story.

How To Make Space for the Messy and Imperfect

I had one of those come-to-reality moments when I opened the photo gallery on my phone today. You know, an icky sinking moment when you realize your life looks nothing like the filtered pictures you seek out on Instagram from time to time? To make matters worse, I then stumbled upon the Instagram page of an “old friend” and felt even more lacking.

It was awful. There I was, in the parking lot of Starbucks, rifling through the beautiful photos of other people and feeling a little fatter and frumpier than usual. Suddenly, my house was ugly, my tomatoes weren’t heirloom enough, and my children weren’t intellectually stimulated in the way they deserved. It was three o’clock in the afternoon, and they were still in their non-organic mismatched pajamas with the mustard stains on them. The crushing failure of my life became crystal clear at that moment.

I sat there drooling over pictures of beautifully lived lives and perfectly arranged meals, and I cursed my poor photography skills and scolded myself for not taking the time to learn how to use my camera properly.

I often tell my children that comparison is the thief of joy, but today I was caught off guard. Today I was exhausted. Today my kids were home from school for the umpteenth time and on their third round of strep throat. Today I was acutely aware of all the goals I’d made in January and still hadn’t met.

Today I opened my door wide to the thief.

To read more, pull up a chair at The Glorious Table.

How To Bridge the Divide and Improve Understanding

You’re tired and weary. Political discussions tend to disgust you more than anything. You’ve moved from “why can’t we all just get along?” to “why bother?”. You’re not alone.

Most of us are feeling the weight of disgust and disappointment with politics these days.

The political climate has gone from seasonally heated to perpetually disappointing. What we could once rely on as a temporary dose of election season ugliness, has become a daily drip of negativity and discord.

I started the Food For Thought community based on a belief that beneath all the political posturing and misunderstanding that makes talking politics with people of other persuasions so difficult, there was a deep desire to connect with others and feel understood. I still believe that.

But it’s been difficult. The climate of communication has been abusive, divisive, and outright dysfunctional. I’ve spent a lot of time in the “why bother?” camp, and only recently been reminded why.

Today was one of those days.

I am on the heels of our first Food For Thought dinner party since moving back to the States. Typically, we pick a topic, prep for a week or two, and then get together to eat and talk. But this time we decided to base the dinner topic off of the book Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

With my busy schedule I wasn’t sure I would be able to complete it, but thanks to Audible, I did. And I’m glad I did. The hope that seemed so distant and foreign to me has returned. Reading this book reminded me that if people do the work to gain understanding, they can find common ground and build a better foundation for humanity.

And that’s what we all want, right?

Take, for example, the new beer ad from Heineken that’s gone viral. It’s gone viral precisely because it strikes at the heart of this desire.

Those of us who love it, love it because it captures the essence of humanity and our desire to set aside boxes and connect with one another.

But I wonder, for all of the love we feel when we watch it, do we realize that these are real people responding to one another. Given the opportunity, would we be willing to do the same?

If you’re like me, and the division in this nation grieves you, are you willing to take an active role in changing the climate? Are you prepared to collaborate with others and build the proverbial furniture?

Will you choose to stay and have that beer in the end?

We need one another, and I firmly believe that if we can filter the noise, partisanship, and talking points, we will gain insight and empathy and conquer even greater tasks than Ikea furniture instructions together.

The Naked Writing Project: Kinda

Who knew finding my voice would be such a difficult thing. I’ve always been capable when communicating. I’ve enjoyed a level of sufficiency crafting both spoken and written word. But the truth is, I’ve been hiding behind that. It’s odd to realize that the very thing some people identify as extroverted and competent behavior is the very thing I could hide behind.

I watched a great video (click here) the other day by a spoken word artist named Prince Ea. In it, he explores the idea of truly living. He also talks about the concept of “kinda” and it’s this whole concept of “kinda” that has me thinking lately. I have always been kinda smart, kinda outgoing, kinda confident, kinda capable, and so on.

This kinda has kept me afloat and at the same time, I’m realizing it has also held me back. I feel like the kid who was really smart in school and kinda applied themselves but didn’t really step out of any comfort zones. On a surface level that kid looks like they have it together, but after a while, they slide through the cracks and into an abyss of complacency, fear, and kinda.

As I push into this writing thing more I realize my voice hasn’t developed fully. I’ve played at times with different voices and tones.  I’ve been flippant and coy. I’ve been angry and forthright. There have been moments when I feel like I found my voice, but life gets busy and chaotic and I get tired and worn out, and the next thing I know it’s slipped away again.

I’m a mom. I have twin boys. I live in Shanghai. I have moved and renovated homes more than once. Life is just busy. And busy makes it difficult to put time toward my craft. But nothing was more detrimental to my writing that a recent post I wrote. It was a powerful and personal post. It came easily and yet I worked on refining it. I got a lot of positive feedback and people I didn’t  know were reading it and talking about it.

It was 5 months before I sat down and wrote again. And let me tell you it’s been hell to write again. Hell, I tell you.

Every little voice of doubt has entered in to critique my ideas, content, writing style, and voice. The doubt that has entered my mind has been shocking. I never thought that I would be paralyzed like this.

But here I am, full of doubt and fear and wondering if I will write anything like that again. It’s been weird. I had no idea I was like this. But the video, recent conversations, Brene Brown (dammit Brene), and a host of other challenges have all collided into this moment of truth.

So here I am. And here is my project. The Naked Writing Project. It’s a space for me to come and sit and write- free from editing, distraction, perfection, and striving. It’s also a place I’m inviting you into.

If you are inspired and have something you want to share, consider submitting here. If you are a writer and you have a few pieces that are hot but won’t see the light of a final draft anytime soon- send it my way. If you’re not a writer per sey but have something you want to put out, let this be your platform. I can’t wait to see where this concept goes.

Email submissions to thenakedwritingproject@gmail.com