Leaning In(to) and Leaning On: Lessons in God, Motherhood, and Calling

Back to blogging after taking an almost month-long hiatus. I intentionally took a break from blogging over the holidays and then came back to work on MY FIRST SERMON EVER, which was an awesome experience and which is almost exactly like giving birth to a child, recovery period and all. (In the best way possible.)

Getting up there and stepping into my authority as a preacher was new for me, and a very, very big deal. Between fighting a lifelong case of imposter syndrome (youngish Asian American woman who grew up in an ultra-conservative church – hello, authority issues) and the pragmatic challenges of being a stay-at-home mom of three, it was a true work of grace that God a) put me up there and b) gave me a word about having “authority and power” as children of God (John 1) that also reflected my own coming into authority as a preacher. So in sum: pretty sweet, God. I see what you did there.

This whole preaching thing also invited me to reflect some on calling, and the way my calling has changed throughout the past several years. And about leaning into them, and what in fact that even means.

I’m a few years behind, I know, but I seriously appreciated Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (and the 2010 TED Talk, which is what I watched. Let’s be real). Especially how she names the “internal obstacles” (her words) that prevent women from meeting their full potential in the workplace: the assumptions about our own capacities and limitations that drive our choices. As a woman who in 2013 was smack in the middle of my childbearing years and at a crossroads in my career path, Sandberg’s advice to “lean in”; not to leave before you have left; and to ask yourself, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” was timely. And thought-provoking, and encouraging.

Now, a few years older and more seasoned, I want to riff on this theme of leaning in. Because maybe it’s just me chronically overthinking things, but the nagging existential question for me was never about whether to lean in or not. It was about what I was leaning into.

I know I’m not alone on this.

When I was 25, a full-time teacher, a part-time grad student and pregnant with my first baby, I thought: I’ll stay home. For a year. Hubs and I will take the income cut and live super simply, then I’ll go back into teaching after baby’s first year and I will love it. But before I was anywhere close to his first birthday I thought: no way. I’m not ready. I need to spend more time with this squishy baby. Hubs was on board, so another year at home it was, with some extras thrown in. We cobbled together a creative solution of me mostly staying at home while taking on some childcare for a friend’s son, and for a few hours a week dipping my toe into InterVarsity staff life, taking on a (very) volunteer role as staff at Harvard.

Fast forward four years. In that time I had gone on IV staff to plant a chapter at Fairfield University at twenty hours a week; dropped to ten when our second, Grace, was born; found out we were expecting our third and left staff completely; and have stayed at home for going on my second year. In this past six months I’ve had a couple of campus speaking engagements, gotten my blog up and running, and preached a sermon at church for the very first time.

To an onlooker it might seem like I can’t quite make up my mind with what I’m doing; that if I could just have a five-year plan and stick with it, things would be fine. But I’m more a two-year plan kind of gal (if that), and even with a plan, it’s hard to know what your uterus is going to end up doing. Sometimes babies come when you want them to, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you’re “not not” trying and here comes Number Three, hot on the heels of Number Two.

Sometimes you succeed at what you’re doing in work. Sometimes, you don’t.

Sometimes, you do lean in. You lean in and in and in, but somehow…. It just isn’t enough. Whether you’re the lone woman breaking into an all-boys club, or there is no room for advancement, or you get laid off unexpectedly… The question of leaning in is complicated by all kinds of disappointments and systemic injustices that any amount of sheer individual willpower will not overcome.

Or, if you’re like me… You have this baby. You have these two, or three babies. They may not be sleepy-eyed and gurgly anymore, but they are still your babies. Even if they spend their days eating you out of house and home while grilling you about DC vs. Marvel. Even if they insist on washing their hands “mine self.” They are still your babies. And you want to be around for them.

Well what you do then is… you lean into. You lean into the hardship, the heartaches, the inner conflict of wanting to be a dozen places at once. You lean into because the reality is that there are these things pushing back. You realize that for each action you elicit an equal and opposite reaction: it’s a law of physics and in the adult world it’s called making choices. You can’t have it all, not because you’re a woman living in the twenty-first century, but because that’s just what it means to be human: you make choices. And if you’re a mom, you choose: paying for daycare, or taking a paycut. Long days at work thinking about your kids, or long days at home pulling your hair out. Cobbling together a life where you have a little bit of both, and living in consistent flux. You want lots of things at once – we all do. So you pick your pain.

And, thank heavens, you lean on. You do this because there comes a point when you have to. Because the right choice is never easy when there are things you dearly love in the balance: your work, your kids, your sanity, your sleep, some peace and quiet. And it’s amazing to know: God cares about this stuff too. Specifically the first two. He’s the one who’s given these gifts to you, and he wants you to enjoy them. He is FOR you.

He doesn’t choose sides in the Mommy wars. He’s on YOUR side.

So ladies, we can come to God honestly with our struggles. And we can come to him openhandedly with all that we have in life. He’s the giver of all good gifts and he wants to help us know how to use them.

Leaning on him helps us wisely discern what things are worthy of our time and energies in each season, precious commodities that these are. Leaning on him gives us the grace we need to face frustrations, the perseverance we need to stick with our choices, and the joy we need to strengthen our hearts. Leaning on him helps us see clearly what matters most. Leaning on him reminds us that we are dearly loved and that we are enough, because he is always enough, and he loves us unconditionally. It is not our station in life that defines us, but our relationship to our Heavenly Father. In that deep security is the great freedom to live out our callings.

And I realize I speak from a place of privilege, of this assumption what we can all choose what we want, or where: and I know I was lucky to have been able to do that. Like I said, systemic injustices are real; and life knocks people around a whole bunch. But it’s in those places that God, even and especially, will meet us: where his grace is even more amazing, and his hope is even more precious.

And leaning on him reminds us that our calling is more than a job: our calling is our unique placement in his heavenly economy for a time. Our calling is a single, unified vision for serving God’s kingdom in a way that our whole selves can engage in. Our calling is a gift and a responsibility.

Thus, as moms, we can be less concerned with this fallacy of balance, as if family and work were two opposing forces. Rather we should be looking for that sweet spot, a state of dynamic equilibrium where our tanks are filled up even as we pour out; where who we are as women (daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers) enriches and is enriched by who we are in our work. And when we’ve found that sweet spot, we hang on, because this is a gift: finding that place in Jesus where our yoke is easy and our burden is light. Yes, it’s still work – it all is, that’s living. But when it feels light, that’s like gold. That’s his grace.

Yes, there are moments of awkward. And there are moments of amazing. Quick story. When Sam was two years old I planted a chapter at Fairfield U. Stubborn and crazy as I was in foregoing any childcare in those days, I had to go into this freshman dorm wheeling a toddler in a stroller and knock on people’s doors and invite them to a kick-off event. At first, I was mildly mortified and somewhat amused by what I was doing. But then I had the realization: he is HERE. For a reason. INVITE your son into this. (That’s what InterVarsity staff do, right? We make invitations.)

So I did. Before I went to knock on someone’s door, I asked him to pray with me for that student by name. And when students opened their doors, at least I was… memorable. At least, I was clearly committed to what I was doing. And maybe we were even a little bit cute. Quirky for the sake of the Gospel. I’ll take it. God uses it.

The experience is etched in my mind because in that moment, we were all being transformed. Mom was working for Jesus, and Sam got to see that. He sent his precious, two-year-old prayers up alongside mine. He did evangelism while wearing diapers, praise Jesus. For that one September afternoon, I’d found my sweet spot.

Here’s the tricky thing about this sweet spot, though: it’s a moving target. I couldn’t plant a campus chapter now, I just don’t have the energy to make it a priority. And I couldn’t have blogged four years ago – I just didn’t have the perspective. And God calls us into different things in different seasons, and we need to be continually attuned to what he has to say. We need to hear our hearts, take our mental temperatures. And he leads us. He’s our shepherd, after all. That’s what a shepherd does. He leads.

And that’s why we lean on. We lean into the hard stuff, yes, and man, does it lean right back. But most of all, we lean on the One who equips us out of his unending strength and love. Maybe that’s what we mean when we talk about following Jesus: it’s not enough to have made his acquaintance; there is somewhere he wants to take us. Where has he taken you?

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On Being Bodied

My whole body wanted to cry. It must have been the twentieth time up and down the stairs tonight: the end of one of those days that bodies just don’t cooperate with the agenda. After dinner I had stooped, lifted, scrubbed, poured, dumped, wiped, and scraped my way through to 10 pm.

On my way down the stairs with the fiftieth steaming load of laundry, the husband, who was working on a talk in the next room, took the opportunity to sonorously quote at me about the essence of love from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments.

I’m sure it was really profound, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

I really wanted to be sitting down, quoting philosophers too. I wanted to be sipping ginger tea and pondering love and the incarnation, too. I wanted to not be dealing with bodily fluids for the first time today. I wanted clean hands.

But we are embodied beings, and our kids even more visibly so: we poop in bathtubs, we wet our beds, we take our older brother’s brand new kaleidoscopes and throw them into the toilet, just to hear the splash.

We are subject to the laws of entropy, to a dependence on Comet, Clorox Wipes, and endless handwashing. We are alive, and to be alive means to make a mess.

And then I realized: isn’t this love? And it was all so, completely appropriate, that this was what I was doing right now, carrying this basketful of someone else’s pee down the stairs.

And yes: there is a time for heady love. Jesus himself was prophet, priest and poet; he weaved metaphors like a master, he spilled over with Scripture, he preached, he proclaimed.

But he also healed. He touched lepers and hemmoraging women. He laid hands on the dead. He walked, he sat; he collapsed in exhaustion, he grew hungry and thirsty.

And he came to us not as a celestial being, some intangible force of supernature, all fire and storm. No, he came as a newborn, through blood and membranes, placenta, vernix, discharge, feces.

He left his life in much the same way.

And that was the plan, wasn’t it? That was the beauty of it: Jesus, God himself, wasn’t too lofty to be bothered with us messy humans. He became one of us, coming through the same bloody avenue, dropped into this world, wailing, suckling, spitting, soiling, crawling, tumbling, bleeding, dying.

Love doesn’t remain far off. Love gets itself dirty.

And maybe this is a mistake we make about motherhood: that it should be clean. That we should despise the bodiliness of it, that we should seek to control, dominate, sanitize, sterilize: that to evolve as humans is to escape our enfleshment, bring our bodies into submission.

Tolerate the bodiliness of these children we’ve borne: dispose of what’s not useful. The mistake of modernity. The bowing to profit and utility.

But what a miracle too, is this machine: that we can conceive life in our wombs, and sustain it with our breasts. That we can hold and rock, swing and shush, hoist a baby up, stoop to lay a baby down. Our arms, our backs, our nipples, our lips, teeth and tongue all involved in the task of loving, this work and this delight.

And that is part of the incarnation: that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, despising not our bodies, but inhabiting them… in Mary’s case, becoming utterly dependent on one. But not stopping there; as fully God and fully man, he injected into human flesh what we couldn’t attain on our own, that of which he was overfull: grace and truth. And redeemed his creation, us, his creatures: birthed from the dust, bound to the earth, bending towards heaven.

So I stoop, once more: sweeping, scrubbing, washing clean. It’s the backside of being alive; it’s love, covered in filth. It’s real. And right now, it’s the truest kind of love I can give.

The 3-Gift Rule and Other Ways to Stay Sane and Enjoy Christmas with Littles

I love Christmas, it’s no joke. I’m a true ENFP on the Myers-Briggs so I love holidays, I love parties, I love to go big or go home. I love to try to do all the things. It’s just all so exciiiiting!

Well as I’ve gotten older, wiser, and more in tune with my limitations, I’ve developed this mantra: when things get crazy, stick to the script. Years ago I would have totally resisted this, as I am by nature an improviser. But having a back-pocket plan helps me meet attainable goals as well as leaves me room to go for it when I’m feeling ambitious and not (as) sleep-deprived. But most importantly, it leaves me time and energy to relax and enjoy the important things. Like reading The Berenstein Bears and the Joy of Giving six times a day, then drinking a strong egg nog with the hubs after hours. That truly is my recipe for a very merry Christmas.

Which brings me to my other mantra: invest less in stuff, more in experiences. Because maybe, at some Friendsgiving twenty years from now, your kids may reminisce about the fifty awesome gifts they got each Christmas and the perfectly decorated mantle above their little heads. But probably, they’ll remember the endless rounds of carols and the cuddling over hot cocoa. That’s the investment that’s never wasted.

So here’s my script for not only surviving, but really enjoying, Christmas with littles.

1. The 3-Gift Rule. Because if it’s good enough for Baby Jesus, it’s good enough for my kids. We hit three bases: one “big”/special thing; one stocking stuffer; one book. Done. Spartan? Not really, considering how many toys we already own. With the exception of birthdays, we keep toy-giving pretty simple all year long, so when Christmas comes, opening a few, well-chosen gifts feels pretty special. Also when you think about toy-getting in a global context, you realize… we could all do with a lot less. Which brings me to…

2. The Santa Trip. The past few Christmases we have made a habit of giving away a bunch of toys. Because Christmas is about giving, and also because if we continue to amass toys at this rate, we are going to run out of room for furniture. So my vote is for something akin to equilibrium: a bunch of toys in, a couple of toys out. I have heard of people doing the one-for-one rule, but we’re not there yet.I’ve considered playing Bad Santa and just taking some toys once they’re asleep and depositing them elsewhere. But it’s much more fun, and much more spiritually formative, for the kids to see and actually participate in this process. From making the choice what to give away, to who to give them to, to physically loading them into the car. This year Sam wanted to take a picture of himself with the toys he was giving (not posting it because it was probably someone’s gift from two Christmases ago. I’m not going to be that honest on this blog.) This year we made up a name for this act: the Santa Trip. Maybe next year we’ll put the toys in a real Santa sack and wear elf hats. More importantly, maybe next year maybe we’ll remember to pray for the children that get the toys.

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3. Invest in a few, simple traditions. If there are two things to have in-house with kids during Christmas, I vote for the Advent Calendar and the Advent Wreath. As for the Advent calendar, we have one fun Fisher Price one that they get to play with and one nicer one that was given to us from the Vermont Christmas Company (above) with which we actually practice the discipline of waiting. They can barely keep their grubby hands off the sweet little sheep and angels, but that’ll make it all that much sweeter when they get to meet Baby Jesus.

We also love our Advent wreath. Lighting the candles with little ones each night is an investment, but boy are they incredibly sweet times. Are they wiggly during these solemn, fire-hazardy moments? Yes, but that’s why we keep it short. And give them peppermint M&Ms. Or donuts, as is the case here.

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Daddy reads from Isaiah, with hand motions.

 

Bookending our days with the calendar and the candle-lighting has helped create a spiritual rhythm of expectancy and has helped to ground us in the narrative of Jesus’s birth. I hope that when my kids think of the Christmas season, these moments are a big part of what comes to mind. Because Christmas day is awesome, but much of the beauty of this season is the anticipation of that day.

4. Crockpot beef bourguignon and other cheats. By this I mean recipes that can still make things feel festive when you have three littles underfoot. We threw it in the crockpot on Christmas Eve morning and before our five o’clock service, sat down to a fancy-feeling meal that took almost as little prep time as boiling pasta. Maybe it’s not true beef bourguignon, and Julia Child may not approve, but you know who does? My husband, because we get to eat delicious food on Christmas Eve and his wife is not a crazy person. (Happy wife, happy life.)

5. Sing happy birthday to Jesus. If we do one thing with our kids this Christmas, I always hope we make it this. You don’t need a fancy cake; even store bought coffeecake will do. Just anything to make it feel special. Try it even before opening presents (yes it’s possible!!) to center everyone on Who is really important this day. And what kid doesn’t love a birthday party? Especially if you get to have cake before lunchtime!

6. And during the holidays, as in life, remember: it’s a process. These thoughts do not at all mean I have it all figured out; we have a plan for right now (the next week maybe?) and that’s good enough for me. You don’t have to have the perfectly Pinterested Christmas house or all the perfect holiday activities. Your Christmas traditions will evolve over time as your family evolves.

And a note on Christmas “stuff”: Christmas décor and heirlooms make great presents. Stick with classic, meaningful pieces that will last you Christmases to come. Last year, I was super excited to have a mantle and was yearning for five stockings to be hung by the chimney with care. Not wanting to break the bank, I had only sprung for three monogrammed Lands End stockings for the kids. Thoughful Hubs knew I was silently longing to complete the set, so he gave me Mom and Dad stockings as an early Christmas present. Now I get to look back on those stockings and remember the sweetness of that gift and the story of that Christmas, the first in our house and the year when we became a family of five.

In a way, each family is writing its own Christmas story with each passing year. Each story and each chapter within it will be unique. Find your own way and love on your family the way God has gifted and impassioned you.

What’s your script for enjoying Christmas with your family?

The Season of Waiting

Before this season in my life, I had never been one to dream of heaven.

Life was too good, right now. This world just held so much possibility, so much promise. College, grad school, marriage, the babies, one after the other… The longer-than-hoped for interlude between Sam and Grace, but then the happy double-whammy of two under two. Became homeowners for the first time. And the world itself seemed a decent neighborhood to raise kids in. Bruised, but generally, sensible. The blessings were good on this side of heaven.

I liked this world. It was working for me.

What they say about invincibility in your twenties is true. You think tragedy is something that happens to other people. You think death is the last page to someone else’s story. If there is such a thing as Millennial Exceptionalism, I had it.

Then I had an awakening.

It wasn’t any one thing. It wasn’t any one moment or issue that rocked my world. Instead, it was an awakening that came on slow. Quiet, like a fire. I turned thirty, thirty one. With the years came understanding. One flash of insight here, one disillusionment there. One fractured relationship here, one breach of trust there. Coming to terms with myself. Coming to terms with others. Watching friends’ lives come undone. Learning how to live in a dizzyingly terrifying, unpredictable world. This is what older, wiser people meant when they said, Life is hard.

Truth ignited for me, one flame at a time, until my previously undisturbed world was lit. Ablaze, with a roaring fire.

And with light.

And in that light, I finally saw: how dark the darkness.

No, it was nothing special that woke me up, nothing that doesn’t already happen to people everywhere, all the time. I claim no victimhood or special treatment. I just think… I grew up. And part of that growing was coming to see things as they are. To see the darkness for what it was.

But you don’t know you’re in darkness until someone lights a match.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

We do not have to look far to know: this world we live in, it is dark. And how this darkness begs, how it is dying, dying for the light.

If light could be water, this world is parched. If light could be bread, this world is starving.

But would we know it if it came to our table? Would we eat, would we drink? Or would we spit it out?

I am the Bread of Life. I am Living Water.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

And then he did come, one night, in a stable.

Quiet as a match in a big, dark world.

And he gave. He gave and he gave until he could give no more, and then he died.

And he rose again. Yes, he’s alive. And he’s gone on to heaven to prepare a place for us, and one day will come to take us home.

But we are not home yet. We’re here. We have work to do. We are caught in between: we are sojourners on a midnight road, refugees, even, tossed from shore to shore, huddled and shivering under the stars, lighters in our hands, fires in our bellies.

We are in this dimly lit anteroom that theologians call the “already not yet” — a kingdom of heaven already begun, but not yet in its completion. A runway dotted with lights, the path ahead in shadow, waiting to be set ablaze by the fullness of His glory.

His homecoming, to us. And the more we understand of this world, the deeper our longing for the next. It’s what we say after a death: you’ll see them again. Something in the soul reaches for eternity, for a world where all things will be made new, where all tears will be wiped away, all evil and suffering will be no more, justice will reign. A world that will be, in the words of a great thinker, put to rights. A thing to hope in. Heaven. It’s real. It’s coming. Soon, but not yet.

So we wait.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for today. Maybe for a relationship to mend, if that person you love would ever even speak to you again. Maybe for two pink lines on a stick, and with every month that goes by, your hope dies a little. Maybe a job interview. Maybe a diagnosis. Maybe for healing.

Maybe for heaven, if just to see that loved one’s face again.

How long, O Lord, how long?

If you are someone who waits, I wait with you.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Tonight I lit the Advent candles, an honor normally bestowed on my husband; but he was out, giving light to others tonight. So around our table, I lit the fire. And something happened for me, as I held that light. It wasn’t just the sweet expectation on my children’s faces, or the spell cast by the carols we had sung just before. It was the realization that, in the words of Cormac McCarthy, I am carrying the fire. And my children with me, they are carrying the fire.

And we march on, bringing light and heat to the cold, dark corners of this world. We bring hope, the same hope that has set us free. And as we go, we are not alone, for He goes with us. He is God with us. That is who He is. And as the song says —

We mourn in lonely exile here. But even as we mourn, we rejoice, for Emmanuel shall come to us.

It’s a great paradox and a mystery, this living of life in the face of death. But though we see through a glass darkly now, someday we shall see clearly, face to face. We know in part, but then we shall know, even as we are known. Until that day, we light the candles in the dark to remind each other, and ourselves, that this, this is our season of waiting.

The Santa Question

People take Santa very, very personally. For some folks, if you mess with Santa, you’re messing with Christmas, family, childhood itself. So don’t worry, I’m going to tread very lightly on this one. Santa is as personal as what kind of deodorant you buy: Kirkland big box or hemp and tea tree, you do you. You can’t judge people openly for how they do it, but let’s not all pretend that in civilized society, it’s not a thing.

Thus, this being Dec. 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas on the Christian calendar, I thought it fitting to reflect on who this Santa guy is to me. To celebrate the real St. Nick as well as to examine the legacy left on our cultural consciousness by that “right jolly old elf” whose beard and belly loom large over this season. And over every Costco display, in blow-up form.

Confession: in our house, we don’t really Do Santa. I mean, we enjoy the Santa stories (“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is a favorite); we have all the requisite Santa ornaments and even a dancing Santa (that Peter hates); we stopped and said hi to the Santa at the Home Depot (or I did, as the kids stared open-mouthed). But he doesn’t particularly dominate the season in our house – we’ve never bought gifts “from Santa” or left cookies out for him (read: ourselves) to eat.

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Santa after hours.

 

Okay, maybe you think we’re lame. It’s cool, maybe we are. Maybe we’re avoiding the string of increasingly detailed questions from our five-year-old about the science of chimneys. Maybe we’re running out of room for more toys around here. Maybe it’s on principle, as we’re pretty transparent about things with the kids. And maybe I just don’t think we could keep up with such an elaborate ruse. (I mean, I can barely commit to a Mad Libs during a road trip, and now I have to continue to make stuff up for years?)

Maybe we’re a little lucky too, because Sam is still in preschool. As far as I know, none of his classmates are hardcore Santa evangelists nor demythologizers, and our kids aren’t particularly interested in joining either camp. I think the question of “believing in Santa”has honestly never occurred to them; it would be like asking, “Do you believe in Mickey Mouse?”  As of right now and until they learn otherwise, Santa has become part of general Christmas lore, along with the Grinch and the Nutcracker and those festive fellows. A fun story, but nobody’s dying on that snowy hill.

That said, when we do talk at length about Santa, we’ve found it helpful to bring in the true story of the real St. Nicholas of Myra. Veggie Tales has a decent telling of it (though maybe a little difficult for young ones, as the young Nicholas is orphaned). The resource I suggest is this book, Santa, Are You For Real?, given to us by my mother-in-law.

The book begins with an all-too-familiar scene of a little boy being teased by the bigger kids for believing in Santa. The kid’s big sister then comes to comfort him, and they go home to talk to their dad, who tells them the story of the real St. Nick.

The beauty of this book is that it works on so many levels. One, it brings hope to the child who’s facing disillusionment of dreams and even cruelty from others. Two, it teaches older children how to treat younger ones in that situation – it offers a “Don’t” (teasing is never okay – don’t use your knowledge as a power trip) and a “Do” (have compassion and find an adult if you need to). Third, it tells the fascinating story of the real St. Nicholas and illuminates the saint’s motivation for giving: to follow the way of Jesus. Fourth, it models for the parent a loving and really beautiful way to respond to this child’s crisis: by empowering him with knowledge, and pointing him to Jesus, too. Fifth, the images run the gamut of Santa in the historical imagination, from cartoon to Americana to iconography; refreshing when what we mostly see is the apple-cheeked Santa of the Coca Cola ad.

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It turns out that the real St. Nick was actually pretty amazing. He was a Jesus-follower who helped the poor; one story passed down is it that when a family with three daughters was too poor to pay dowry – to the point where one sister almost sold herself so her sisters could marry they men they loved – St. Nick came by at night to throw some gold coins into their window. Some landed in a stocking being hung to dry and thus the tale of Santa Claus was born. He then became a bishop who told others about Jesus and was even jailed for it. Needless to say, he was sainted. Pretty serious man of faith there.

Regardless of the accuracy of some of these details, the spirit rings true: Christmas is about sacrificial giving. If you really think about it, there are some radical things going on in this story. St. Nicholas follows the way of Jesus even though it cost him big. Even the women in the story are willing to put themselves on the line for each other, and they empower themselves however they can, in a time and place that treated them as commodities.

Oh, and by the way, St. Nicholas was born in what is now Turkey… so when we pulled up a Google image of what scholars think the real St. Nick looked like, he didn’t look like that Nordic jolly old elf at all. Pretty hopeful for ethnic minority kids to know that hey, the real Santa was… brown. And I thought his list only included white people’s names like Parker and Griswold.

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What St. Nicholas may have looked like, rendered by British anthropologists.

 

The hands-down coolest thing, though, is that the true story of St. Nick points us all to Jesus. St. Nicholas of Myra did what he did because he was a lover of Jesus. And it thus invites us to ask: how can we follow the way of Jesus, at Christmastime and beyond?

Telling the true story of St Nick cuts through the question of “to Santa or not to Santa” and says, Sure! And then Jesus. And I think that’s the mark of a pretty good story.

Childhood is a time for believing in fairy-tales, for possibility, for flights of pure imagination. However parents choose to nurture those imaginations at Christmastime, whether with cookie crumbs and “From Santa” tags in the morning, we all just want to give our kids the most magical Christmas possible. But on top of our family tradition, what would it be like if we populated our children’s imagination with stories of true heroism, inspiring them to create the magic we want to see in the world? What kind of stories could they tell us then? What kinds of stories could they find themselves in? Now, that would be something to believe in.

 

 

 

When You Are That Mom

The day had started out great. I had packed everyone’s snacks the night before. I had had a shower, a blowout, an outfit I loved, and stuff for my study was all in my purse, next to the door. The kitchen was satisfactorily clean and we had plenty of time to get out the door. And I had a sweet stack of Christmas cards addressed and stamped in my purse. As of 8:40 am, I was feeling pretty good about life.

Until, you know, Real Life happened.

Here’s how it goes down. Once the kids are all buckled in, I forget two separate things and have to make two separate trips back to the car. One of which is for a drink for Grace, which she partially consumes in the car, but mostly spills down the front of her shirt so that when I get to her class and take her jacket off, her mint green shirt (which perfectly matched her mint green tutu) is now totally soaked through the front. Matched with the Stuff on Her Face (of mysterious origin – wasn’t there when I SCRUBBED HER CLEAN forty minutes ago), she kind of looks like a figure skater who’s had a rough night. She has an extra shirt, but the ladies are nice about it, so we leave the shirt to dry, which it does when I come back to get her – now in a sort of dusky seafoam.

On my way out I take the coat I left in class last time. So now she is prepared in case it drops 20 degrees in the next half hour.

At their two separate pick-up locations, neither Sam nor Grace are able to complete the task of Getting Through the Parking Lot with full motor functioning and can now only communicate through the whine-cry. They are too far gone to listen to my calm reprimands (why is this parking lot so quiet??) so my only goal is to get them into the car as fast as possible and then Shut. The. Door. And then drown my own misery by blasting All I Want for Christmas. Which at this point, is a giant box of wine and a quiet bathtub to drink it in.

Which maybe I can pick up tomorrow after dropping off Sam’s preschool paperwork I had forgotten this morning.

So yeah, today I was That Mom.

So I came home to give myself a pep talk. Instead of the self-critical stuff we too often do, I figured: here’s what I would say to a friend who was having a rough morning. So why shouldn’t I say it to myself?

It’s okay.

You’re allowed to have a bad day.

You don’t have to have it together all of the time.

What happened today is not a snapshot of who you are as a mom, as a person. Sometimes you have it together, sometimes you don’t. When you do have it together, remind yourself: this too shall pass. (And thank God for the grace today.) When you don’t have it together: this too shall pass. (And thank God for the grace today.)

You can only be That Mom when other people are around, so forget the peanut gallery. And in fact when you boldly are That Mom, or That Family, you make it safe for other families to be imperfect, too.

It’s great to be punctual. It’s great to be organized. But there’s a difference between preparedness and being able to control life. Also, controlling children. No one has figured out how to do either of these things and if they have, they’re probably some kind of evil scientist and will come to a bad end.

Fight the urge to replay the scene on the drive home. Fight the urge to take out your humiliation on your kids. Do some disciplining in the privacy of your own car. Apologize if it’s in order. Catch yourself smiling at their precious hooded faces in the rearview mirror.

Separate out the humanness of “not being Supermom” with those real, heart sins. Repent of the latter and ask God for help; laugh off the rest.

Then go ahead and lavish some love on them. Lavish love on yourself. Go home and change into sweatpants. Bake muffins (from a mix). Let them watch a Mickey Christmas Special. Get on the floor and play peek-a-boo with the dishtowel that the baby just pulled down even though you keep making mental notes to move the dishtowels. Fawn over the Christmas crafts they brought home, especially the one with the traced handprint. Ponder it all in your heart. Let the dishes sit in the sink while you read The Polar Express. The cleaning will come and go, but the stuff you create and time you give them, that will last.

And sit down and write this stuff down. Because tomorrow, it will be someone else’s turn to be That Mom, and we all need a little pep talk sometimes.

Of Mothering and Fear: A Reflection at Advent

It’s a terrifying thing, this bringing children into the world. Before I was a parent my fears were more immediate, more self-centered: could I endure the pains of childbirth? Could I rise to the challenge of the night feedings, the endless diapers, the perpetual being on call? Could I become a mom? Then as they grew and started exploring more of the world, even being apart from me from time to time, my fears seemed to expand with them. What would happen when I wasn’t looking?

My children are still small. My oldest, Sam, is five, a wild blaze of boy; even his love is wild, the affection that takes his siblings down to the rug. But he also has a contemplative streak. When I see his deep brown eyes lost in thought, I wonder what big question he is working out this time, like what took the dinosaurs, what heaven is like, what happens to bad guys. In those moments my heart swells in appreciation of the fine mind our Creator has given him, but another part of me feels him drifting slowly away from me: a boy, alone in his boat, pulled toward horizons where I can’t follow, his brown shock of hair in Osh Kosh hoodie growing smaller and smaller, toward foreign lands, toward the sun. And at each new shore is a new problem to solve, a plan to achieve, a bad guy to battle. And so it goes, this business of growing up.

I can only imagine a bit of what Mary must have felt like when the angel told her, You will conceive and give birth to a son. Talk about feeling unprepared! This sweet young girl who hadn’t even embarked on the adventure of marriage – a mother, already. And then each new stage that followed: the long hard road to Bethlehem. The birth in a stable. The dream of far-off men bowing down before her child. The nightmare of losing her twelve-year-old in a crowd. The wedding at Cana and the knowledge, throughout, that my son is the Messiah. He will save the world from our sins. His unprecedented ministry, the teachings, the healings, the unstoppable popularity. And the opposition. The murder, of an innocent young man. Her son, her baby boy. It catches my throat just to imagine it.

Mary, a mother, just like me.

And yet, what if she had tried to stand in the way? If she had lost sight, somehow, of who he was, this calling that extended beyond his boyhood, beyond her? Maybe that is what Jesus meant when, at twelve, he said to her, Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?

It strikes me, Jesus speaking of his Father this way. In the moment, perplexing, for sure; but ultimately, isn’t this the reminder all mothers and fathers need?

I may be their mother, here on this earth. But they have a Father in Heaven who’s loved them before I ever did.

He has loved them from the beginning; he knows their names and every hair on their head; he sees them, he delights in them, he fights for them. He has a plan for their lives that I cannot even dream of. He has a job for them to do, a calling for them to step into. Little as they are, they are his disciples.

I have a part in it, for sure; he has called me to tend their hearts and train their minds for this season. It is a blessed season, and all too short, but it is my calling. To protect them, pray like crazy over them, to fight this battle one hug, one story, one whispered bedtime prayer at a time.

And even though, right now, we live in a perverse and wicked age; though lions and wolves prowl outside our doors; though sickness and death lie in wait for us; He is greater. He knows the whole story; he knows how it ends. So I can be free of fear. After all, weren’t those some of the first words the angel spoke to Mary: Do not be afraid. How she must have replayed that scene in her mind, etching those words in her heart, wearing them like armor into this wild and beautiful future, mother to the Messiah. Do not be afraid.

Because he has overcome. And he is coming again, someday, to take his children home.

I have two younger ones. My Gracie Girl is two and a half; some of the baby fat is melting away to reveal a little girl, all hair and legs, at turns sweet and steely, serious and silly. Peter, my baby, will always be that in my heart, but even since he’s turned one this fall he is running after anything that moves. He will not be left behind. He will keep up. Of course, they all do. The question is, will we?

I know my calling, this thing called motherhood, this incredible contradiction in itself: to nurture and send, to love a growing thing. Sometimes leaving behind yesterday is like a death in itself. But I will take these fleeting moments of their littleness — ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, a snot-nosed kiss, a plaintive wail for “Mama” – as a gift in the light of eternity, and forge on ahead, joyfully, full of wonder, unafraid. Because though they are mine for now, they are his Forever. And I’ll take each small grace for this journey through the middle.

 

A Day in the Life 2

Time for another day in the life. I don’t know about you, but I have given myself some media fatigue recently. From Mizzou to Beirut to Paris I lament, and I could just soak up All the Articles, all the blog posts… but I do have to cut myself off at some point and just be. Be faithful to my calling right where I am, which is the calling of disciple-making. Be present and treasure the small miracle of a day with my children, their eyes, their ten fingers, their voices calling Mommy. Little as they are, they are followers of Him and learning how to live in this beautiful but deeply troubling world. And hopefully, if I do it right, they will be the ones living out compassion and justice tomorrow.

6:33 am: I wake up to two five-year-old feet in my face and a two year old peering over at us from the side of the bed. “I want to be next to Mommyyyyy” she says, so I put her in the only place on the bed where she can be touching me: on top of me. They continue to bicker and wake up the baby, who I then nurse (read: we doze) for a good forty minutes.

7:12: Hubs has breakfast under control. He’s made oatmeal and homemade yogurt and is, needless to say, especially cute this morning. “What’s the matter?” he says to me, which means I must look like night of the living dead. But then he hands me a cup of coffee with milk in it. Good job, Hubs.

7:40: After coffee and half a bagel I still cannot wake up for the life of me so I find Ben Harper on Spotify and absentmindedly mumble to the kids that we are listening to “mellow music.”

“ELMO??”

“No, mellow.” But I can see how that’s confusing.

“Waiting on an Angel” is an invite to hold my daughter and sway in the kitchen while wearing my robe. So I do. I need to listen to Ben Harper more often.

For a brief part in the morning the kids are happy, playing together, minimally bickering, and I sit on the couch and watch them. Tuesdays and Thursdays are off days for Sam’s preschool, so they’re often days to make doctor and dentist appointments and set up playdates. But I relish the mornings when we don’t have to rush three little ones out the door. Plus the slow-coming cold of November is like permission to stay in and get cozy.

The kids pile into our ottoman cover and Sam announces they’ve made a “battle boat.” Hubs kisses each of them goodbye and we discuss politics as he takes the trash on his way out. It’s a good day for marriage.

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9: With breakfast cleaned up, the baby down, Sam playing Legos, and Grace reading in her room, I decide to take a shower. I love love love my night shower (it deserves its own post someday) but with being in my robe till 9 and having been up with the baby, it’s feeling like a two-shower day.

Grace comes in while I’m getting in the shower.

“Can I watch you?” she says, which is only not a creepy question when you’re two.

I say sure and close the curtain anyway. When we are finally both fully dressed, we cuddle and read in her room for a little while. Until I feel the pangs of hanger. As in, I am suddenly very hungry and we are all at risk. After a couple books I reheat an egg casserole. Everyone has a snack and when I finish mine I do a good-enough French braid in Grace’s hair then sit and do more reading to the kids while they eat.

10:45: Once Peter is up we spend the rest of the late morning putting upstairs laundry away, dusting in the master, kids piled up in Grace’s big girl bed, drawing, dancing. This is pretty much what unstructured time in our house looks like. I move in and out of doing housework, changing diapers, negotiating conflict and sitting down to focused kid time. I don’t know what people are talking about when they call being at home monotonous. I feel like there are always a million different things that need doing. Or maybe I am just an expert in finding the drama in stuff. And comedy I suppose.

12 noon: Lunch. Uneventful, but it’s after lunch that things go down. I’m sitting there cutting oranges for the little ones when Sam rushes to the bathroom then calls, “I didn’t make it.” So I leave Peter there strapped into his seat and he and Grace with only liquids so nobody chokes while I’m gone. I take care of that and when I come back down I see this:

 

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“I made a mess, Mommy.” But sweet girl was already cleaning it up.

 

Peter screams at me from his chair while Grace and I wipe up. As I’m getting out the steam mop, Grace tells me she pooped.

This, this is what parents of three kids are talking about when they say that three kids is game-changer. Especially three kids five and under, all raging narcissists, barely in control of bodily functions, and needing everything at the very same time. Cheers!!

1:30: I get them all into naps and quiet time, then crawl under the covers myself. After a little journaling and Bibling and soaking in the silence, I sink into a half hour nap. Then Sam’s quiet time is over just in time for Peter to wake up screaming with a dirty diaper and his too-short nap.

2:15: Grace is in a horrendous mood when she wake up. I get her out of it by singing “It’s grape time” to the tune of “Mack the Knife.” (I don’t know.) It works though and soon all the kids are snacking around the table.

Plans to see friends fall through which is just as well, as I don’t feel like changing out of my fleece yoga pants anyway. So we do some hanging out and cleaning up. I pop some rice into the rice cooker for our dinner, four-ingredient spiced lentils.

4 pm: I whisk them outside. It’s 46 degrees and if it were just me I’d be under a blanket reading a magazine, but because I love these kids and they need to get outside, I’m out there. It’s worth it the minute we step out, if only for their completely adorable faces in their hooded winter coats.

Sam wants to stay inside and keep playing the keyboard so I stay in front of the window where he can see us. But after a bit he joins us because really, he can’t resist climbing a tree.

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Forty minutes later, all rosy-cheeked and breathless, we step inside. I put the pot of lentils on to boil, wrap up housework stuff, putting diaper laundry away and generally picking up in the bedrooms, in hopes of having the evening free with Andy.

5:30: Hubs is home (yay!). He helps open the jar of sundried tomatoes (I loosened it, obvs) and I throw all the ingredients in: tomatoes, feta cheese, parsley, and some kale/arugula/swiss chard mix. We have it over brown rice. Sam actually eats his lentils but asks not to have to eat the tomatoes, which is fine. I think our stubbornness in serving not-especially-kid-friendly dinner has finally paid off with him. It only took over five years.

The kids are hyper, glad Daddy’s home, eager to show off their antics. We have to keep reinforcing table manners. We go around and say our “grateful” and “grumble” for the day.

At this point Peter is pretty much melting down due to his crappy nap, so I whisk him off to bed while everyone else helps clear the table and get dessert on. Brownies and milk, then Hubs does bedtime routine so that I can clean up and have a little brainspace. Though I end up doing the last part, tuck-you-in part, due to popular demand. You know.

Later he and I restore general order to things, spend a little time wrapping things up (this) on our devices. I’m supposed to bake something for some potluck tomorrow morning, and I may just phone it in with a mix or get a surge of energy at 9 pm. We’ll see.

Either way, hopefully we’ll end the night watching some Parenthood. Because what you do when you’ve been parenting all day is sit down and watch fictional characters do it, which is somehow not stressful and completely cathartic. Or read someone else’s Day in the Life.

What to Say Instead of “You’re Special”

It starts when they are in utero. Johnny gave me crazy heartburn. This one, it’s the unholy swelling. When they are born, it’s comparing birth stories, birth weight, hair color and how much of it. From there, it pretty much goes on forever, from who started walking when (as if, in healthy children, this indicated anything important), to colleges and career path (same deal). And on and on.

A lot of this is natural; after all, comparison is often how we make sense of the world. A thing is itself because it’s not another thing.

And drawing similarities, particularly within a family, is a way of acknowledging and celebrating kinship. You have a love for chess, just like your uncle. When we make connections between children, and especially between generations, we reinforce ties; we find joy in the threads that weave our families together.

It’s a necessary part of friendship, too. When parents commiserate, we love to share “You too?” stories. Your kid wakes you up by telling you she’s pooped? Mine too! Especially when child rearing can be so isolating, these commonalities give us hope that we are not alone.

But it’s usually not the similarities that get us in trouble. It’s the differences. And when we try to mentally order our children through comparison, those differences can become markers of identity.

And especially in adult children, these markers can be very, very hard to shake.

It often looks something like this. Sonny’s the jerk. Connie’s the nice one. Michael’s the successful one. And Fredo… well, Fredo is the one who’s going to need everybody’s help. (Poor Fredo.) Or, the pervasive: Dick is the smart one, and Jane? Jane works very hard. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one.) We attach labels to our children, implicitly or explicitly, and whether or not they are even accurate, children live into those labels.

Anybody out there still living out their childhood label?

It starts with the little things, doesn’t it? Take this common example. Say we catch a child doing something great – “Wow, you read that word! Good reading!” Can we just affirm it, and leave it at that? No need for Great Aunt Salma to say, “You know, your father couldn’t read till he was 8” or for Parent B to chime in, apropos nothing: “Kayden can only read long A sounds.” I’m sorry, when did the conversation become about someone’s dad or about Kayden or Summer or third cousin Zeke? It wasn’t, but now it is. Now it’s not about the Good Thing That Happened, now it’s about who’s ahead of whom, and that’s a line of thinking that’s not good for anybody. (And side note: if we’re legitimately worried about our kid’s development, let’s get the data from a doctor, not someone’s Facebook video of their kid writing the alphabet at 18 months.)

The comparison trap affects us all, and if we are not careful, we can suck our kids into our own insecurities. It’s everywhere, it’s subtle, and it’s so, so dangerous.

CS Lewis has this great quote about the danger of comparison. He connects it with the heart issue of pride:

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next [person]… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”

When we create a pattern out of comparative comments, harmless as they may seem at first, we are slowly setting our kids up for that same pattern of comparing themselves to others. At its worst, we risk teaching children that their worth depends on being better than the next guy – a.k.a, pride. Not pride as in, “I’m proud of myself,” but pride as in feeling Better Than. A better word for it is probably hubris. And on the other side of hubris is despair for not measuring up. Let’s not let our kids grow up to be those adults who feed off of comparison and competition. Let’s give them a security that extends beyond their standing out from their peers.

And let’s keep cheering on our kids for a job well done, for working hard, playing fair, being kind. We can celebrate what is unique about each kid, and yes, we can even tell them they are special. But let’s be mindful about what that means; maybe specialness is not relative. Maybe specialness is really about being special to Someone. Maybe what we mean when we say special is something akin to how Peter’s lovey blanket, Wawa, is special. It’s not special because it is so inherently, outrageously unique — in fact, there are thousands of others on Amazon just like it — but because it’s his. It has his scent on it, his slobber, the chewmarks from his five teeth. He took Wawa and made it his own. Maybe the word in English for it isn’t so much special as it is precious.

How would it change things if instead of telling kids they were special, we said instead, “You are precious to me”?

So, most important of all, let’s keep telling our kids that they’re loved. Not for anything they have done, or even any amazing way they are, but because they are ours. After all, that’s the way God loves us.

 

 

7 Ways to Teach Our Kids About Race and Ethnicity

It’s an important conversation but it can seem so overwhelming. How do we bring these concepts home to our kids? How do we even begin if we are just starting out ourselves? Here are some of my thoughts.

  1. How you do it will depend on your own context.

I am Filipina-American, Andy is European-American (we also say “white”). Also, we live in Bridgeport, CT, a highly diverse city in what is a homogenously white state. So not only is the ethnic makeup of your family unique but so is the particular way in which your family engages the community around you (not to mention the members of your extended family). So what is right will differ radically depending on your family’s situation. This is definitely not a one-size-fits all scenario.

That said, I will try to offer broad principles instead of specifics, which are better generated out of specific ethnic communities and the complexity of power and pain that is present there. The importance of candid conversation with your own ethnic group cannot be overstated, and I talk about that later.

2. Be a learner yourself.

You’re going to need to explain complex things in simple language, and the only way you can do this is if you have a grasp on it yourself. Give yourself grace if this is the beginning of your journey but know that it’s an important journey and you have a place in it. Seek humbly and engage broadly on this topic. Familiarize yourself with the definition of even taken-for-granted terms such as race (arbitrary category), ethnicity (referring to a people group), prejudice, racism (these two are more nuanced than I can do justice in this post).

Learn about racial justice, racial reconciliation. For us, books like Being White, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, and More Than Serving Tea have been immensely helpful resources in our journey to understanding race and ethnicity.

And reflect on your own journey of ethnic identity. Find same-ethnicity friends to be on this journey with you; honest, safe conversation is vital here. Find people already conversant in this and see if they can point you to resources that have helped them. What resources have been helpful for you?

And also: guess what. Everyone has an ethnicity. Even my-ancestors-were-on-the-Mayflower guy (maybe even, especially that guy). You have an ethnic background and a culture, so own it. And learn about it. Celebrate it. Grapple with what’s hard about it. You can’t teach effectively your kids about race stuff out in the world until you’ve come face to face with the way you feel about your own. 

3. Think developmentally appropriate.

There’s a lot of conversation out there — and news, a lot of it ugly — about race and ethnicity, and again, how you will specifically handle it has everything to do with your own family’s makeup. And there is a tension here. Some of us have the privilege of ignoring the race conversation and pretending it’s not an issue. But, guess what, even if you don’t think it’s affecting your family, it is. We are all in this together, whether we know it or not. The humanity of each of us is impoverished the longer we choose to remain ignorant on such matters.

That said, there is such a thing as giving our children, especially little children, too much information. I think I may be speaking more to majority culture here, because I know many minority ethnic groups have their own way of when and how to specifically have this conversation. However, it’s every parent’s responsibility to at least begin this conversation; you just might not want to begin with people killing each other. Search out children’s books on this score.  I’m just starting out too and would love help in this area. Anybody out there have any recommendations?

And age-appropriateness is these kinds of conversations comes with this rule of thumb: open up the convo, and then let your child take the lead. It’s kind of a dance, a delicate one. Wait and see if they will ask some of the hard questions. When you feel speechless, don’t forget to ask:

What do you think?

And of course, I don’t know.

Followed with, Let’s learn more about that.

Model the importance of listening. It is much needed in this conversation.

And if you’re the praying type, ask for help. God gives wisdom to those who ask.

4. Be transparent about your own journey, and wise in how you interpret it.

If racism is breaking your heart – as it should all of ours – and it brings you to your knees at home, or stings your eyes with tears as you go through your newsfeed, or stirs you up in anger, that’s okay. And it’s okay for your children to see that sin in the world is grieving your heart. We had this conversation at the dinner table recently. Some people were being mean to other people based on the color of their skin. It makes us sad. And see how your child reacts. If it’s too much, you’ll know. But also know that your own feelings are going to overflow into your family life whether you want it to or not. And this just might be the open door you need to start talking about it.

5. Be aware of the messages they receive about race through their everyday experiences.

I’m aware that in our usual circuit – preschool, the Fairfield library, maybe Trader Joes – the people we run into are, um, pretty homogenous. One day, when Sam described my skin as “dark” and his as “regular,” I knew we had some work to do.

We all need to be reflective of what we are presenting as “regular” to our kids. I brought home a Disney princess coloring book for Grace (okay, maybe that was my first mistake, but I’m a millennial so…) and noticed that along with the requisite pink and purple it came with yellow, brown, and red markers. What? No black? How was she supposed to color Jasmine’s hair? So I threw in a black magic marker to round it out. To say nothing of the skin-color offerings (thankfully, Crayola is at least trying).

So it may be a good exercise to reflect on what our kids are seeing as “regular” in everyday life, from places you go to friends you spend time with to books and media you consume. And this is not just to check off the diversity box, either. This is so they can understand and appreciate all people as equally valued and loved – not some as “regular” and some as “other.” So they can see and celebrate the reality of God’s beautiful and colorful creation. So we can all develop some grace and cultural literacy as we learn to do life together.  Which brings me to…

 6. Paint a picture of who we are in God.

This really is the heart of the matter for us. You may or may not be religious, but I know that for our journey, our identity as children of God provides the foundation for how we think about race and ethnicity. God made each human being in his own image. God loves ethnicity and together our cultures form a fuller, richer picture of the people of God. We worship most fully, together. And we need to be advocates for each other, bringing shalom – peace and justice – to all corners of the world.

And we can speak these life-giving words over our kids. God made you you. God loves who you are. And God, even right now, wants to use who you are to help make his kingdom come. And in that vein…

7.  Especially if you are on the side of the majority: Teach your child to be an ally and an advocate.

If there is one lesson we can offer our children in this conversation, it is that we must stand up for others. No matter who we are, we are responsible for furthering kindness. We are responsible for furthering peace. For a small child, it might just take asking, What can you do to help? And this is not in a hero-swoops-in kind of way. This is what it looks like to walk alongside our brothers and sisters, to see every person as having dignity and value. And because when we extend help to others, it changes our hearts a little too. It teaches us to rely on the strength and grace of God rather than on our own misguided heroism.

And the more we learn our own hearts in this journey, the more we can model it for them, and the more our children learn. And hope for our world brightens, just a bit, when they do.

 

What are some ways you have taught your children about their own ethnic identity? About race? What resources have been helpful for you?