Saturday, January 20, 2018

a book review: The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow was a dry read. Kind of hard to get through at points. Alexander is brilliant and very articulate, but I felt like she was deliberately driving home the same points, making it a little tedious at times.

Nevertheless, it was a comprehensive overview of contemporary racial inequality facing our country. To be honest, I am still very much on the ‘learning’ side of this issue, and this book gave me a good perspective of the whys and hows of America’s colorblindness. Very helpful for me.

Towards the end of the book though, I was feeling a little weary - she took very strong positions on what is not helpful, how current civil rights activists are missing the bigger picture, and even the era of a black president may actually be more harmful for the end goal.

But, I was pleasantly surprised by her conclusion: it is either all of us or it is none of us (the white man, included). Alexander quoted James Baldwin, “we cannot be free until they are free”. This brings it full circle to where I’ve been left wondering, but lately, convinced - after reading all these books about different issues of brokenness - that it is all a spiritual issue. As long as we make our fight for or against a specific concern, the long game is lost. But. If we realize our humanity is the commonality between us all, then maybe we can move forward together. (Insert God here).

a book review: Jesus and the Disinherited

Man. What a surprisingly good book. Much different than expected, but in a very good way. 

I think my biggest takeaway was the way it reoriented my perspective of Jesus’ gospel. Before, I would have said the gospel is a message of reconciliation to the disinherited. But Thurman describes it as a gospel of the disinherited. It kind of puts things on its head, in a lot of ways. 

There was so much in that little book, but for those who haven’t read it yet, I won’t attempt to review much more. But in general, it overlapped much of what I’ve been learning - which helps me process and reinforces heart change. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

hindsight paints a clear and beautiful picture

2017 has been a doozy. There is no way I could have anticipated what this year held for me at its start. 4 family weddings. Trips to Hawai’i, LA, Ohio, Chattanooga, Bald Head Island. Executive Orders that directly impacted my job and my passion. Leaving my job. FT mom’ing it.

Amidst all of the year's craziness, my 2017 New Year's resolution has stayed close to mind. At times, it's kind of been the head-shaking, skin-pinching, are-you-sure? remembering of how this resolution is possibly coming to fruition. At other times, I've chastised myself for thinking I could measure it to any degree; it's just not that kind of resolution. But in those moments, I have felt a nag of conviction that my self-doubt and cynicism undermines the glory of this year. You see...God deserves all the praise and gratefulness and verbal and emotional exuberance I can muster: He has shown me more of Him, and in this, my resolution has been, to a degree, resolved.

I began the year with the sole resolution to know God more. I figured if I could manage this, it would fulfill all of the other ones I secretly hoped for (better wife, less need for control, healthier lifestyle, etc). It was kind of like a two-for-one deal, at the very minimum.

What I didn't realize was that committing to it was my first step towards knowing God more. It all began this time last year; around Christmas, I felt God was asking me to pray about whether I should leave my job at World Relief. The ‘yes’ to this question was quite possibly the most difficult ‘yes’ I have ever given to God. (Even more difficult than the actual ‘yes’ I gave a few months later to actually leaving World Relief.) And I think it was the most difficult ‘yes’ because it was the first one. 

Now on the other side of this feared ‘yes’, I view that moment as the turning point of the year, or even, if I dare say it out loud, my adult life. Despite the fear I held or my need for control, I couldn’t let those be my deciding factors. It was, symbolically, the embrace of God’s will and word above my own. The intentional sowing of a seed that has produced beautiful growth, not to my credit.

I’ve been reading through New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton, a contemporary Cistercian monk, and this quote of his sums it up:

If these seeds would take root in my liberty, and if His will would grow from my freedom, I would become the love that He is, and my harvest would be His glory and my own joy.”

So, 2018...a new year; new resolution? Not that 2017’s resolution was completely fulfilled - I mean, there’s always more to know of God. But as I reflect through the year, my heart feels more and more loyal to testifying that my first ‘yes’ of 2017 sowed the seed to the growth of the year. And as the year continued, I saw more areas God was asking for a willful surrender to self. Certain things are easier than others for me: quitting social media felt like a death, but it was destructive because of my desire to be seen and known. Deciding to not buy new clothing was less of a personal struggle, but it was a decision I had put off, even though I had felt convicted over the years with (non) fair trade practices and seeing the world consumed with materialism.

So, entering this new year with new possibilities, I resolve to say ‘yes’ to God’s leading. ‘All the time’ would set me up for failure, but ‘more and more often’ seems reasonable and in line with where God wants me anyway: faithful and trusting, but not limited to only what I do or don’t do. Because I’ll confess, the joy and glory of 2017 was beyond me and my doing. Praise God.

2017’s New Year’s Resolution Post
Purpose. L I F E . It’s what we all want for 2017, isn’t it? In one way or another. And New Year’s Resolutions are set to help us achieve all of that.
I considered what goals I want to pursue to make this year the best yet, I felt overwhelmed and exhausted just thinking of all the organization | energy | intentionality | time I would need to put into // making my marriage better, loving others well, exercising more, eating healthier, etc etc.
And the other day as I was resolving to have more patience and be less angry with my girls, Iliana did something I didn't like, and I completely snapped. Looks like resolve isn't going to make me a better parent.
So, as I contemplated what. in. the. world. is worth me pouring into, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I realized there is nothing more important to me than knowing God better. And I am convinced that this single pursuit will effectively change every other area of my life.
So cheers to a new year. Of a pursuit of an ever-present, ever-real God who loves in spite of all the ugliness I can muster. To the only One who can make me a better wife, friend, mom, coworker, neighbor.
Cheers to a beautiful, purposeful, full-of-LIFE 2017.

Friday, September 29, 2017

September 29. A Day Worth Celebrating.

As a young college student, the way I imagined success to arrive in my 30s was to be measured by my career, house, children, and accomplishments. And now as I turn 34, I realize my "arrival" is not quantified but rather, qualified. My life is made richer and fuller by the relationships I have, beyond what my 20 year old brain could have even begun to ask for.

Much of this has happened to me, so I can't boast about what I've done to bring myself here. And while relationships can't be neatly measured, I do have dates I can pinpoint as the beginning of many life-defining experiences:

October 16, 2009
I began employment at World Relief in High Point, NC as the Match Grant Coordinator. This experience has forever changed my life's trajectory, passion, and purpose, and opened the door to a world of new people to love and connect with.  

March 22, 2013
Shivani Shrivastav came to our house for a temporary place to stay. 4.5 years later, we have gained a sister, a "Shi-Shi", and a lifelong friend.

December 3, 2013
Brian and I went out with our friends, Evan & Heather Blackerby, to discuss what it would look like to be in an intentional community together. After dinner, we drove around High Point praying about where God might be leading us to live. Four years later, we have homes and amazing neighbors in the same area we had originally driven and prayed through.

May 31, 2017
The beginning of a new season. Staying at home with my girls, ages 5 & 3, are a part of this season; my relationship with God is at the center of it. Putting all of the faith and trust I have on the line, I'm already coming to a deeper understanding of God than I've ever had before.

Daily, I struggle with the need to be in control. In control of my home, my kids, my life. But in this, I give a big sigh of relief, and a oh-so-genuine "thank you, God" that He took the plans I had made for myself 15 years ago, scrapped them, and gave me this simple, lovely life I lead.

Happy birthday to me, indeed.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

the mission is the same

It has been less than 2 weeks since I left my job at World Relief, which I currently and emotionally refer to as “the best job I will ever know”. I have experienced a range of emotions, many of which have knocked me off my feet, as I did not realize just how deeply I would feel taking this new path. Since my mind is a jumbled mess these days, I’m only going to attempt to process these thoughts in a bullet point format; forgive me.

  • Not having a schedule is underrated! Freedom has been redefined for me. Shackles are gone, and I am reveling in this newfound, non-Finance Manager kind of lifestyle. My days are no longer bound by the chores I need to get done because - heck! I don’t work; I can always do it tomorrow!

  • Being home with my girls 24/7 is not as scary as I imagined it to be. Ok, ok - so before you judge, I have always enjoyed spending time with my girls. But there are layers of stress like any parent would understand. Much of the stress I anticipated, however, has eased now that I’m home. They are not constantly vying for my attention or needing to be held any time I’m around. And I am not always distracted by what household responsibilities need to get done before I go to work the next day. We can just BE together, and it’s been wonderful.

  • I have felt lost. While I *know* my identity is first found in the grace of God, I identified so deeply with my role, mission, and relationships at World Relief. And all of a sudden, it’s gone, or at least changed. And it has taken some time to figure out what crosses over and what needs to be edited in my new role as a stay-at-home mom.

  • This next one needs explanation - so bear with me - but my world feels much smaller, and if I’m completely honest, less purposeful. Working at World Relief brought the world to me. It taught me large life lessons, stretched the way I thought about humanity and my community, allowed me relationships with people who thought like me and who didn’t think like me. There was exposure to the wealthy, the middle class, the working poor, and those who can’t afford to pay rent and utilities. I met people of all different countries, cultures, and perspectives. And now? Well, now I spend the majority of my time at home, in a community with very similar social and economic luxuries.

A pendulum of these thoughts have swung back and forth in my mind for the past 10 days, making me a teary mess each and every day. I have felt consumed by my loss and overwhelmed by the responsibility of moving onto a new season of life. For some reason, I had put up this mental block that I needed to “break up” with World Relief. Sure, take what I learned and apply it elsewhere, but move on to something new. So, it was truly an enlightenment when my husband helped me come to this realization:

Being at home with my girls, ages 4 and 2, gives me the freedom and the responsibility to create an environment with eternal value. First and foremost, my role is to be a representative of God’s grace to my girls. And as I think through the “how to’s” of this, I realized that one of the most meaningful ways I’ve seen Christ in the world is through my work at World Relief, so why not start there with my girls? Teach them how to love by...loving; novel, isn’t it? But yes, show them God’s grace by seeing other people’s experiences of rescue. Allow them to understand justice by knowing stories of injustice. Grow in them a spirit of mercy, gentleness, and compassion as they understand and love others who have suffered hardship and who continue to love and give without judgement.

I feel silly that this is even an “aha” moment; it’s honestly more like a “DUH” moment. But all the same, it’s a “i’m so thankful” moment. I am excited to marry this passion of mine (serving refugees) to these loves of mine (my two beautiful girls). I have regained a sense of purpose and mission, and I know I wouldn’t be anticipating this new journey without where I have already been these last 8 years at World Relief.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

it's not just a career decision; it's a life shift.

It’s not just a career decision; it’s a life shift.

When I began working at World Relief in October 2009, I couldn’t have imagined how this job would change my life. I was introduced to a world I never knew existed just 5 miles down from where I grew up. And refugees were just the beginning of it… Everything cross-cultural. World crises. Social services. The struggle to survive.

World Relief slowly began to shape my life, my faith, my heart. At first, I worked in direct client services, doing everything from airport pickups to ESL enrollments to celebrating a newly found job. After 3.5 years, I made the transition into a more administrative role as a Finance Manager. In this position, I learned more of the whys and hows of World Relief’s mission (empowering the local Church to serve the most vulnerable). Each new role has increased my passion for refugees and particularly the Church’s responsibility in it.

I have loved working at World Relief and with refugees much more than any other job I could dream of. Theoretically I was even willing to use my entire salary towards daycare, if necessary. So when I felt this God-tug on my heart over Christmas break to be more open-handed with my job, it was a big step of faith to even consider the idea. However, I believed my God is real and present, so I committed to praying through the possibility.

I asked Brian and some close friends to pray with me, and for the first month, I felt or heard nothing. Then on January 27, the Executive Order on Immigration was signed, and that rocked my world. I realized with renewed passion how deeply my heart connected with and cared for this work, these people. And then, I knew there was no way I could intentionally walk away from my job. As I continued to pray, I don’t know when and I honestly don’t know how, but within a few weeks’ time after the EO, I felt 100% sure that I needed to leave World Relief, and I felt 100% heartbroken over this knowledge.

As I’ve walked the steps to follow through on this decision, I’ve cried a thousand tears. I cried because I still wanted it; I cried because my identity was so strongly rooted in my job; I cried because my coworkers are like family to me; and to be honest, I cried because I was afraid of this new role as a stay-at-home mom.

Through the tears though, I have felt a deep sense of peace. I can’t understand it, but I trust it. I can’t quite explain it, but it carries me. In this 3-month journey, I have trusted God in a way I’ve never done before, and therefore, have experienced God in a way I never have before. It’s been so incredibly life-giving.

As I slowed down on all the tears, I have been able to slowly embrace this change and prepare my heart for this transition. What I have been pleasantly surprised to find is summarized in these 3 points:

1.      My work with refugees doesn’t end here. I see a great need for advocacy, especially within the Church. Also, what better way to advocate for those lost and hurting than with my own children? We will finally have the time to visit refugee families together and to begin the larger conversation of ‘serving the least of these’.

2.      Being a mom is the greatest gift and responsibility. Parenting by Paul David Tripp has been a timely read, and I am challenged by my role as an ambassador, a representative of God’s grace, sacrifice, and love to my girls.

3.      I am finding God more and more real as I learn to trust Him with areas of my life I want to guard extra closely. An excerpt from Anything by Jeannie Allen reads, ‘To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through. He starts to get real when you live like that.’

This decision is not a career move; it is not even a ‘what’s best for our family’ move. It’s a God-initiated, God-trusting, God-everything move.

I don’t know what’s in store for the future; I don’t know why God placed this on my heart over Christmas. But I do know that there is nothing more important to me than following the God I know and love and trust. And here’s to that grand adventure.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

just a coincidence, i'm sure... (and a second coincidence as well)

the following is a post i wrote on March 2, 2013, but i didn't publish it then.  but now as i look back at my drafts, i reread this and think, wow. how long do i need to learn the same lesson....?  

so here it is, 6 months later, but just as relevant...

two days ago, as we were putting illy down to sleep, we read her a bedtime story out of "the sweetest story bible".  it was the scripture where the disciples and Jesus are at sea and Jesus falls asleep.  then a huge storm comes, threatening to capsize their boat.  the disciples call out in fear, Jesus awakes, and commands the wind and the waves to cease.  they are amazed.
yesterday night i was doing dishes and overhear brian reading to illy from "children of God storybook Bible". this particular story was titled "Jesus calms the sea".  hmmm, i thought, that's funny - we just read that same story last night.  i continued doing dishes.
and this morning illy is taking a rockstar nap...working on 2 hours!  i read my proverb and a bit in mark, like i have been doing the past several weeks.  and i decided to just read a bit more.  the next passage guessed it -  mark 4:35-41, "Jesus calms a storm".
so what is going on in my life that so desperately needs to hear this word?  ooh, idontknow.  i'm not sure i realized just how stressed this week has been, except for the fact that i word vomit on brian as soon as we get home from work.

ironically, life did get a lot more complicated (and stressful) just a couple of weeks after i originally wrote this post.  thankfully though, the story is the same: Jesus can calm any storm.

so maybe it's no coincidence.  maybe it is His sovereignty looking over me and i finally had eyes to see.