Today is Randall and my wedding anniversary. For fourteen years on August 30th we’ve gone to the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park for a picnic like we did (to a much larger scale) on our wedding day.
Today is a busy day and the best time to celebrate was for an hour this morning over breakfast. The morning was hectic trying to get the boys out the door and get the house ready for someone to come in and do some work on our interior doors and baseboards. I spent the time cleaning toilets and swiping floors and picking up dirty underwear and the 3 bajillion Nerf darts all over the house.
I washed my face but didn’t even have time to put on makeup. I put up my hair and tried to brush the flyaways back into a pony tail. I hurried to the car to try to get the most time together in peace on our anniversary.
We held hands over coffee and talked about our favorite moments over the last fourteen years. We talked seriously about where the future is taking us. We reminisced about what we were doing fourteen years ago at this moment.
Randall, fourteen years ago I was younger, thinner, unscarred by the weight of carrying our children. I wore a summery white dress, had professional make up on, and my hair professionally done. We were surrounded by all of our family and friends, great food and a great party.
This year is real life. The honeymoon is officially over.
But you know what? Fourteen years ago, I barely knew you. I barely knew me! We’ve grown together and created a beautiful family. Our marriage is stronger and better with each passing year.
Randall Lawton, I love you from the bottom, top, and center of my heart. I thank God for you, our marriage, and whatever strange events had to fall into place to bring us here, today, right where we are.
A year or so ago our church invited Nikki Lerner, a culture coach, diversity teacher, and amazing musician, to talk to our staff and worship team. She spent the day talking to our staff members about multiculturalism in the church and that evening, some of our worship team gathered together to hear her speak about multiculturalism in worship.
I was a part of the team that gathered that evening. We started off in a small conference room, sitting around a table and eating desserts. There weren’t enough chairs around the table so when I saw Nikki and some other leaders enter the room, I got up and stood so she could take my seat.
Later after a beautiful, holy moment of worship, Nikki laughed ironically about how she had been talking to the staff all day about how churches often stick to the majority race and don’t cater to other cultures. Then she showed up this evening and there literally wasn’t a seat at the table for her.
Without thinking I said, “I got up so you could have my chair.” To which she replied, “I didn’t see you.”
I regretted immediately saying anything. I talk a lot, but I usually don’t want to bring any attention to myself. I ruminate over things I say for days. My heart still pounds when I think about the last post I wrote on racism. Can I use the word black in that context? Was I not considerate enough of other people’s feelings? Who am I to say these things or make these assumptions or to stand up for things I don’t understand?
No one. I’m no one. But I’m not going to wait until I understand everything and live perfectly before I start standing with my black friends and family.
I learned a valuable lesson that night.
Imagine you were in a room full of people. There is one empty seat at the table and 10 people standing around waiting for a seat, but you were the only one in the room of your race, or gender, or religion. It is likely that you wouldn’t take that last seat unless someone offered it to you, right? I wouldn’t. I probably would still decline after an invitation. But that’s me.
Leaving an empty chair at a table full of white people is not enough. It’s time that we, as white people extend an invitation to our friends of color. Invite people in the minority to the table.
Being kind is not enough. The one thing that will change the world between races is relationship. (<– Click this.)
When I saw him from afar, I thought he was a monster.
When he got closer, I thought he was just an animal.
When he got closer, I recognized that he was a human.
When we were face to face, I realized that he was my brother.
Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery in a field.
I have been a parent for almost 100,000 hours. About 98,526 hours as of this moment. Subtract an average of 8 hours a day for sleep (though new parents know you don’t ever get that much sleep!) and the time that I’ve had both kids in school and that’s still 51,062 hours I have been consciously and physically parenting. So, I guess I’m gonna call that mastered. Bam. That’s Gold Medal level parenting right there.
Just don’t google the “10,000 hour rule” and read the titles to all of the articles there discounting that it’s even a thing. And don’t pay any attention to the fact that as your kid changes you have to change your parenting. Or that the parenting that works for one kid doesn’t for the other. Or that what used to be a good parenting practice, is now considered inappropriate according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. And don’t even think about how I’ve had an amazing partner doing a good portion of the work, or that I’m not even very good at math, so I may be completely wrong about how long I’ve been parenting… You know what, never mind.
I haven’t said a lot about the racism that is making headlines lately for a lot of reasons. I will admit that ignorantly, I just had no idea racism was still a problem this far north in the US. My eyes were opened when my neighbor started flying a confederate flag just days after the Michael Brown shooting.
A bunch of stereotypical southern 20 something boys moved in three houses down in 2014. When I say “southern” I mean our street was now lined with pick up trucks blaring country music while overall-wearing boys played football in the middle of the street. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they had an easy chair in the back of a pick up truck in the driveway and on any given afternoon, 6 boys would be sitting in and around it, drinking cheap beer, and chewing on long stems of grass. Seriously.
I don’t mind a little bit of character in my neighborhood. I pride myself in the diversity I find living within walking distance of an Islamic mosque, Hindu temple, Catholic and Lutheran church, as well as a well known Christian Science school just down the street. So a few good ol’ boys would just make it all the more exciting, but I could not tolerate blatant racism in my neighborhood.
I passed by in unbelief for a couple of days and just couldn’t take it any longer. One evening, driving by, I pulled over and asked the group of boys if they were new to the neighborhood and who actually lived in the house. They said one boy lived there but he was in the back yard at the moment. I asked if that was his confederate flag. They responded with a glowing, “Yes, ma’am.” I asked if they were sporting some Southern pride (Yes, ma’am) or racist pride. “Well, everyone has their own opinions.”
To which, I responded, “Yes, but given the present circumstances, flying that flag just seems tactless.”
“Everyone has their own opinions, ma’am” he repeated.
“I guess you’re right.” I said in disbelief. “Welcome to the neighborhood.” And I drove off.
Those boys lasted about a year and then moved somewhere else. I found myself praying for rain because they wouldn’t fly their flag when the weather was bad. We didn’t see it all winter but it came out again in the spring. One neighbor said she called the police to ask them to take it down. I’m sure that can’t be legal, but she said maybe because of the size of it, or the fact that it was flying on the back of a pickup truck, the police succeeded in making them take it down.
In the days and months to come, I realized how prevalent racism was in my own backyard. I had no idea. My parents talked to me about race growing up. They taught me to love everyone equally. They made fun of my grandma for always mentioning that her friend Betty was black. “My black friend Betty,” she would always say. We had friends who were black, it just didn’t seem to matter much to me. I judged a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I honestly didn’t think racism was still a thing among people in suburban St. Louis County.
But my parents never taught me about systemic racism* or white privilege. I don’t think they knew much about it themselves.
Since the events in Ferguson, a place I spent half of my childhood in, I’ve learned a lot about white privilege and racism and I’m trying to constantly learn more.
I told him that for the first time in history an African American woman had won the gold medal in an individual swimming race but some people are questioning why that’s a big deal. They think, black people have had the same opportunity to achieve swimming goals as white people, why is it significant that this is just now happening?
I told Asher that those people would be wrong. It is very sad that black people are not treated the same way as white people in our country. Yes they can vote, yes they can sit where they want on a bus, and are no longer slaves but the fact that they once were, still very much matters.
You see, just two generations ago, black people weren’t allowed to swim in public pools with white people. When they were legally forced to desegregate, many pools chose to close rather than let black people into their white run pools. You can change the laws but you can’t change the people. This resulted in a disproportionate amount of black people who don’t know how to swim even today. I read that anywhere between 58% and 70% of all African Americans do not know how to swim.
If your parents didn’t know how to swim, it was likely that you never learned because they couldn’t teach you. So if someone in Simone Manuel’s family history broke the mould and taught their child to do something their parents couldn’t teach them how to do, that is a big deal.
And that’s what we have to do, too. I can’t ignore my own white privilege or the racism that exists all around me anymore. I have to make my kids aware of the brokenness of this world in order to fix it. If white people aren’t aware of the rampant racism in our city who will help? You may be thinking that you’re not racist and that you treat everyone equally and that’s all you can do. My parents did an excellent job teaching me to love my neighbors no matter who they are but it has become clear that treating people kindly is not enough to change the world.
What can we do? Well, to start off:
1) Educate yourself on the state of racism in this country. White privilege is a thing. Privilege doesn’t mean that you’ve had an easier life than anyone else, educate yourself on what it does mean.
2) Talk to your kids about what you’re learning.
And 3) start praying and thinking about how we can support our neighbors of color. I mean, who better than a middle class white woman to stand up to her racist white neighbor? People of color aren’t going to change the mind of someone who is already set against them but we can speak for them in many situations.
What else can we do? I have some ideas I’ll post about in the days to come but I’m still learning so feel free to comment below with your suggestions.
Jesus, may we follow in your example to love our neighbors sacrificially like you showed us how. Show us how we can stand up for black lives as someone who can’t relate to their experiences. Show us how to make real change in a country that has such deep roots in partiality. May we be your ambassadors bringing light back into this dark world.
*If you don’t have time to watch the whole 15 minute video, just start at minute 7.
I can’t believe that Isaac is in middle school! I tried to imagine what he would be like when I used to look at his expressive, three-year-old, chubby face.
I had no idea he would grow into the beautiful boy he is now. I had no idea that he’d love football so much that he genuinely enjoys wearing pads that weigh more than he does and practicing for hours in the summer heat. I had no idea that he would be so musically intuitive (though I should have guessed with so much of those Littleton genes). I had no idea that those blue eyes would so rarely look me in mine, but when they did, I would melt so completely.
I’ll be honest; my sweet Asher hasn’t changed too much in the seven years since I took this photo.
He still is so full of energy, loves food and animals, and surprisingly at nine and a half years old, he still hides every time he knows I’m looking for him. But that big ball of energy that gave him the nickname of Bash as a baby is growing into a reserved and introspective boy. He has few close friends but will usually choose to stay home rather than go out. He learns from everyone around him and is paying attention when you think he’s just snuggling with the puppy. And the freckles on his nose make my heart leap every time he is quiet long enough for me to catch a glimpse of them.
I’ve been learning a thing or two in the past few years, as well.
I’ve learned that I’m a perfectionist. A lazy perfectionist, but a perfectionist nonetheless.
I’ve learned that the world is not as I thought it was. My eyes have been opened to a lot of pain and disparity all around me, and that’s a good thing.
I’ve learned that as much as I pride myself in my introversion, I am in desperate need of people.
I’d like to use this blog to explore these topics in the days to come.
May the things I am learning, open your eyes as well and give you a small glimpse of who I am and who I am still becoming.
I used to write. I used to sit with the sun streaming through the trees casting dancing shadows on my legs as the wind rustled the leaves.
That tree is long gone.
I used to start typing and words would stream onto a page and I would learn things about myself, my children, and my God.
I haven’t had any words for far too long.
So much time has passed. I quit writing regularly when Asher was in kindergarten. Today he started fourth grade.
Has it really been that long?
I printed out the first 5 years of this blog for my boys 6 years ago. The boys recently found the book and have been reading it and laughing at themselves quite often. We’ve started collecting the words I have “Overheard” from them again. That’s their favorite part.
I’ve been telling my boys how much I love to see them grow. I’ve been praying for them daily, but I haven’t written it all down in quite some time.
But now I have the time. As fast as the years go by, thank God, I still have plenty of time.
So these lessons I’m learning and the preserving of these memories in blog form are for them.
Two boys, I hope you know how proud I am of you and who you are becoming. May the Lord bless and keep you, the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you, child, and give you peace.