Saturday, July 20, 2013

Race Talks: Race and the Christian

This one is a little over an hour. Particularly, I'd recommend Tim Keller's portion (starts around minute 26). It's worth your time, I promise!

Race Talks: Bloodlines

Got 20 minutes?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Race Talks: Listen, Listen, Listen

Wow. Yesterday's blog had over 500 page views. For perspective, the most page views one of my blogs has ever gotten was 4500, and it's been up for 3 years. haha :) I'm going to assume I hit a nerve. I will also assume that I upset some people yesterday, and that what I said bothered lots of people who did me the courtesy of keeping it to themselves. ;) I hope you noticed that I flippantly used the words "white" and "black," and avoided political correctness. I was really trying to share without pretense. I know that many people feel we should not discuss race. I would contend that this approach is doing us absolutely no good. I think we need to talk about it. So, here I go again...

Today, I just want to challenge my white friends. Let's listen. Let's listen without defensiveness. Let's listen with understanding as our objective. Go to one of your black friends and ask them to tell you what it's like to be them. Try really, really hard not to be defensive. Don't receive any of their statements as indictments against you. Just listen. Don't ask questions to try to back them into a corner. Ask questions like, "Do you think racism still exists? How have you experienced it? How did it make you feel? What should we do about it? What can white people do better?" And just listen. As I said yesterday, there are opinions across the spectrum within each racial group, so you may find that the person you talk to shares very similar opinions to your own. If you find that, I'd encourage you to keep digging, just so you can exercise your "listen without defensiveness" muscle even more! You can even go to one of the hundreds of very racially-charged Facebook threads out there right now, look at the pictures next to the names, and try to listen (read) the common thread. What are people of other races saying? They do have the right to feel there is a problem. We should also afford them the right to be heard.

I took a class in college with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was called "Truth and Reconciliation." It really rocked my world. The archbishop taught us about post-apartheid South Africa. The people of South Africa, instead of seeking retribution for the injustices done to them under apartheid, set up meetings (for lack of a better term), where people were able to voice the injustices done to them, and be heard. An amazing thing happened... forgiveness, and reconciliation. Post-apartheid South Africa could have easily been a violent, nasty mess. I'm not saying that was completely absent, but I can definitely see how this process of allowing people to be heard was so valuable in stemming the tide. So, why don't we try it out?

Does it do us any harm to just listen? If nothing else, it's good practice for all our other relationships. Listen. Practice reflective listening. "What I hear you saying is..." and see how well you do.

Please know that I am not trying to assert myself as any authority or moral superior. I just think this is an important discussion, and want us to keep talking... and listening. ;)

Also, I'm trying to convince one of my black friends to share on here soon. Hopefully I'll be successful! :)

Have a great day of listening!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Race Talks: Don't Be Colorblind

On the heels of the Zimmerman case, the door has swung open wide to discuss race in our country. Whether you believe the case to have been about race or not, the discussion is open. Let's talk.

I'm a white lady. I have friends of many different shades. Most of my adult life, I have found myself serving and ministering to people with black skin. So, I've tried to listen and learn, and I've picked up a few things along the way. I want to share with those of you who might live in a slightly more homogeneous world, or even if you don't, give you a different perspective to consider.

It is a pet peeve of mine to hear white people say they are "colorblind." I cringe when I hear it. A friend of mine made a little joke about it last night, and I figured it was time I outed myself as a colorblind hater. Haters gonna hate, right?.

Why does this bother me? Well, there are lots of reasons. First, have you ever heard a black person say they were colorblind? No, because they are not. They are acutely aware of the color of their skin. Has a black person ever asked you to be colorblind? No. I would venture to say that most of the black people I know would prefer to be respected AS black people, rather than IN SPITE OF IT. That's what the colorblind message says. "Don't worry, I'm okay with you, because I can't even see the color of your skin." That's a bad message, and a wrong one. It communicates that we, the colorblind, recognize there is something inherently bad about your color, so we choose not to even see it. No, no, no, no, no.

Don't get me wrong, here. I KNOW, without a doubt, that my white friends who are saying this are loving, well-intentioned people. If you are one of those people, I hope you know I'm not trying to bash you. I realize that because you ARE loving, well-intentioned people, after reading this and rethinking this idea, you will probably not use that statement again. That's why I'm telling you. It's like many of us are walking around with toilet paper stuck to our shoe. Consider me the friend who's willing to tell you that you're dragging that mess around.

Where did the whole "colorblind" thing come from? Well, it seems to have been an extreme take on Dr. Martin Luther King's dream speech. We should judge people on the "content of their character." Yes, we should. However, we should also respect and appreciate their color. King wasn't saying that we should become "blind" to one another's differences. Instead, we should learn to love, embrace, and appreciate one another's differences. This is far more valuable on the road to healing the many, many race issues that are alive and well in America today. Post-racist America is still a long way away. In my opinion, frank and open discussion with people of other races and a willingness to LISTEN, not defend, are the most important tools for getting there.

If you still think I'm crazy about the colorblind idea, just google "colorblind racism." You'll see what I mean.

Also, one little disclaimer. Nothing is true of ALL black people, or ALL white people, or ALL Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners, etc. There are billions of opinions across the spectrum within each racial group. Let's just not be blind to the fact that these racial groups exist. That's all I'm sayin'.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Summer Challenge!

Who's up for some summer fun?

Today, I asked my kids what they would like to do this summer. I wrote down their ideas. I'm going to post them on the refrigerator and use them as a defense against the curse of "I'm bored -itis." Also, I just think it will be fun to see how many of these things we can actually do!

In no particular order...

1.  Go fishing.
2.  Have a backyard campout.
3.  Go golfing.
4.  Go swimming.
5.  Find shark's teeth.
6.  Go to the beach.
7.  Go to the zoo.
8.  Make popsicles.
9.  Roast marshmallows.
10. Make smores.
11. Play in the rain.
12. Play in the sprinkler.
13. Have a dance party ("and shake your booty" - courtesy of Aspen).
14. Find seashells.
15. Go to St. Augustine for a day.
16. Build a project with Dad.
17. Make lemonade.
18. Go to Legoland and trade minifigures with the workers.
19. Go to DisneyWorld.
20. Paint pictures.
21. Have a cookout, and eat outside.
22. Have a picnic.
23. Make our own bubbles.
24. Make our own slime.
25. Go to the library.
26. Write our own story.
27. Write our own poem.
28. Find ways to serve and help others.
29. Sew something on the sewing machine.
30. Build a giant sand castle.
31. Dress up like Star Wars characters.
32. Go to a movie at the beach.
33. Go bowling.
34. Build a giant Lego ship.
35. Make our own candy.
36. Make snow cones.
37. Paint our rooms.
38. Paint the outside of our house.
39. Make shirts.
40. Put together a big puzzle.
41. Make our own puzzle.
42. Make an obstacle course.
43. Put on a show.
44. Go to M&M and Cracker Jack's house.
45. Do some Connect-the-Dots.
46. Read books.
47. Play board games.
48. Make cookies for our friends.
49. Listen to Adventures in Odyssey Novacom Series.
50. Go to tae kwon do.
51. Play hopscotch.
52. Wear costumes to the store.
53. Go skating.
54. Go bike riding.
55. Sing loud in the car with all the windows down.
56. Pray for missionaries.
57. Help at 2nd Mile.
58. Go to VBS.
59. Have a scavenger hunt.
60. Play hide and go seek.
61. Visit new parks.
62. Have a puppet show.
63. Make a home movie.

...that's what we've got so far!

Any other ideas!?!? I'd love to have a longer list, especially with more FREE ideas! :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Birth of Sawyer Glen: Affirmation

Birth is a powerful experience. Each of my labors have been so different, and so significant. They were pivotal moments in my life that God used to shape and mold me. He's revealed Himself to me, and this time, reminded me who He is.

On Sunday, February 10, 2013, I woke up at around 6 a.m. I stood up, and whoosh! Surprise! My water broke! I have never had a labor start this way, so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I texted my friend, Sharon Schmidt, who conveniently happens to be my midwife, to let her know what was going on. She was reassuring, and one of her texts to me said, "You're going to have your baby!" Wow. Yeah, I guess so! Quincy and I got dressed, ate breakfast, and started to make Sawyer's birthday cake. (He got a Paula Dean Turtle Cake, for those of you who know the tradition and are curious.) I had a couple contractions during this time, but nothing was really going on. The kids got up, and we fed them breakfast. Now, if you've read anything I've written lately, you know that we've been experiencing a circumstantial "bad streak." In the back of my mind, I knew that water breaking at the beginning of labor meant I was on a clock. If things didn't get going in the next 24 hours, I was going to the hospital. I was praying and battling my cynicism, right off the bat. I asked God to help me put it out of my mind, and to just enjoy the day.

It was BEAUTIFUL outside! Sunny and cool. Quincy and I started the first of many walks. Ephraim joined in on his bicycle. Aspen hung out with my parents. Contractions picked up a bit, but still were very manageable. Some time in the days leading up to labor, I hurt my foot on one of our walks, so I had to take a break every so often. We'd come home, sit on the ball, watch TV, and just hang out. The kids spent most of the day with my parents. Lunchtime rolled around, and I was hungry. I had a sudden, very strong craving for Subway. This is kind of random because I haven't had much (if any) bread in months... but I told Quincy that we were having Subway for lunch, and he obliged. As soon as we were finished eating lunch, I was ready to get walking again. We walked around the block twice, and on the second trip, I had 3 stop-you-in-your-tracks contractions in an 8-minute period. I thought, "Okay, I'm probably gonna have a baby today." :)

Since we love Sharon and want to take advantage of her and our labor time as much as possible, we let her know we were heading up to Fruitful Vine. Yes, it was much earlier than appropriate, but we just like her. :) I'm guessing we got to Fruitful Vine at around 1pm. We chatted a bit, cracked some jokes, and resumed our walking. That's when the paparazzi got this shot of me outside the office! I tried to hide my face, but you know how it is...

I felt differently approaching this labor than any of my previous ones. With Ephraim, I had taken Bradley classes and had plenty of "information," but no idea what to expect. With Ransom, it was a whole, beautiful, God story of love and loss, so I tend to put that in another category in my mind. With Aspen, again, it was this amazing God story, of His fulfillment of this crazy promise to me, but I still had some degree of hesitance about the physical pain of labor. With Sawyer, I felt more empowered and in control of the labor. It's totally a false feeling, and it may have something to do with the fact that this labor started in the morning, after a full night's sleep, instead of the middle of the night, but I felt ready to face it head-on. I took periodic breaks from walking, but I wasn't afraid to get this labor going. We used my hurt foot as a contraction gauge, because as the contractions became stronger, my foot pain became nonexistent! hahah Funny how that happens! It started to get hot outside, so we had a wardrobe change and started walking the halls inside. It was so nice that this labor was conveniently occurring on a Sunday, after church (Aspen called it, with a little help from Aunt Sharon), because the halls were empty. I'd feel a contraction, grip on to one of the bricks on the brick wall inside, moan and sway, and then keep on walking. Once it seemed that the contractions were close and strong, and I'd lost my usual hilariousness, I decided to get into the birth tub. 

Oh, the birth tub. All women should labor in them. The contractions slowed a bit initially, and it was a nice relief. I guess maybe I got in the tub around 4pm? I don't know. I'm just making stuff up. I was paying no attention to the time. I asked Quincy to turn up the worship music. I got into a good squatting position, and we all started to worship. I have prayed, for months and months, that God's presence would be palpable during this labor. This has been a HARD year for me. I have struggled. I have not felt God's presence. He doesn't owe me anything. He's already given me SO much more than I deserve, but those dry spells are hard on any of us. We NEED God. He made us that way. As we sang and rode the waves of contractions, I cried. I cried and cried. It wasn't about anyone else in that room. It was me and God. He was reminding me of who He is. He was revealing Himself to me over again. He was pressing in close. I have no idea what anyone else was doing in the room, nor do I care. He was present, for me. He gave me something else I didn't deserve and wasn't owed, and I am GRATEFUL. Time is a blur, but I am certain that these moments with God will be the most memorable when I look back on the day He gave Sawyer to me. He gave Himself to me, again. I was praying, "Jesus, help me. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." He was there. He did.

At some point, I indulged the inner raving lunatic as the contractions reached that unbearable crescendo, but this was very brief and short lived. In the back of my mind, I knew that survival was likely, but if you've been there, you know the feeling. I know I said, "Okay, I don't want to do this anymore." (as if I had the option) It was met with a round of, "You can do this." "You are doing so great." "You're almost done." Okay, true. I remember Sharon telling me at some point to "run into them." I thought, "Yes, that's exactly right." I had been doing that until these last few, and that made perfect sense. I kind of feel like with all of my babies, my transition and pushing sort of overlap. Now that I've had a very similar physical experience with each of them, I'm guessing that will be the case for all my babies. I won't get too detailed for the sake of the non-birth junkies reading along, but let's say that my last few crazy transition contractions and first few pushing contractions feel like one in the same. Lots of things happened in these moments, but suffice it to say that I turned and got into a comfortable pushing position, and very quickly, Sawyer Glen made his entrance into the world! I pulled him up from the water, and had that immediate demeanor change that is always so fun to watch during labor. One second you're hysterical, and the next, you're beaming and crying out, "OHHHH!! THE BABY!!!" :) Yep. That's what I did. "He's here!!!" He was a perfect, beautiful, 9 pound 4 ounce baby boy, born around 6pm. He has the same newborn face as both of my children, just the in-between size. Ephraim wore this face with much less cheek, and Aspen with much more! :) 

While lots of circumstances have been hard this past year, and things haven't gone exactly how I would have wanted, this birth was a beautiful affirmation and reassurance to me. Life may not look like any of us expect, but He is still here. We may not always feel His presence, but we can trust His character. He loves us. He really, really loves us. 

(Photo courtesy of Lori Lee Photography)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Scuttlebutt

Scuttlebutt is a fun word that always reminds me of Dwight Schrute. If you don't know what it means, take a moment to look it up. Boom. Education.

Annnnyway, I thought I'd give an update on the life and times of the Richardsons. We're still pregnant. This baby could be born any second. I'm enjoying teasing people on Facebook, but don't worry, I'm not terribly private, and it won't be a secret when he arrives. Ephraim was born on his due date, so this little one is already less punctual than his big brother. The question is, will he be earlier or later than his big sister, who arrived 5 dates after her EDD. So, let me take this opportunity to remind all people of the law of averages. A due date is an average. This 40-week average is determined because some babies are born before that time, and some are born after that time. It's okay to continue on with pregnancy past one's "due date." A due date is not like an alarm clock or a bomb. Believe me, pregnant women who go beyond the average are ready for their babies to come. In general, they are also incredibly annoyed with the questioning and pressure. Some total stranger asks you when you are due, and you say "yesterday." Their eyes get big and round, and they say something like, "Oh my gosh, what are you going to do!!?!?!" You think, but do not say, "Probably punch you in the face. As far as having the baby, I'm sure it will happen." I, of course, am in this really weird situation of trying to buy a house and move, as well as have a baby, so I'm not sure I'm in a hurry to give birth (sometimes). So, let me shift gears.

We are still under contract to close on the house on or before February 8, 2013. We still do not have a closing date. We are again, stuck waiting on someone else's paperwork. I have NO CLUE if it will get done in time and/or if we will be able to close by FRIDAY. I am now in this totally weird, sore, tired, anxious place of hoping and praying I don't experience a collision of birth and a closing date. Forgive my pessimism, but due to the extraordinarily efficient functioning of Murphy's Law in our life lately, I'm fully expecting this outcome... and then a series of glitches and paperwork screw-ups to make it impossible to set a new closing date for another month or some such nonsense.

So, am I anxious for the baby to be born? Yes and no. Partly, I'd like to go into labor TODAY, get the kid out, and not have to worry about birth colliding with a closing date. Partly, I'd like to keep him on lockdown, close on the house first, and then loose his chains. Either way, I'll be literally NO HELP with moving, and there are several things that have to be done at the house before we can actually move in (at least a week's worth of work). Yes, I will be heavily recruiting volunteers to help my poor husband, who will bear this burden alone.

My body is doing lots of things to let me know it's getting ready to expel a baby, but it's been lots of starting and stopping. Stress related? Probably not. Everything's totally fine. What are you talking about!?? ;)

This week is the top of the hill on a rollercoaster. We are sitting there, ready to puke, not knowing what on earth is going to happen. If you're a praying person, I would ask that you pray in vague generalities for us ;) because I have truly no CLUE what to pray, or what to do.

So, that's the scuttlebutt. I will continue to annoy you with vague status updates, as it brings me great joy and entertainment in this time. Consider it your penance for my pregnancy. ;)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Are You There?

I have not felt like writing in so long. I feel like such a Debbie Downer lately, and I don't want to ruin anyone's day, but I figured it was a good time for a purge. Let me preface all of this by saying I'm 38 weeks pregnant, so I fully understand that some of my perspective is skewed by hormones and exhaustion. Forgive me that.

Have you ever read Mother Theresa's story? She was obviously this saintly woman who loved and served God her entire life, but did you know that for about 40 years of her life, she suffered through what is sometimes called "the dark night of the soul." It's a period where a follower of God does not feel or hear His presence, doubts His existence, and generally just struggles. I don't mean, at all, to compare myself to Mother Theresa, but boy do I get it. I find it weirdly encouraging that someone like her could go through a period like that for SO LONG, and still keep pressing on in serving Him, choosing belief even when it doesn't make sense, and she couldn't see the bigger picture or know the purpose. 

I guess that's where I'm at right now. The past, almost 2 years, we have lived with my parents. The first year was planned. We had to rent out our townhouse for a year in order to be able to buy another place. This second year... well, basically nothing has gone as planned. In March, we started house hunting and getting all our preapprovals and things together. In June, we put an offer in on a short sale. In June, we also found out we were pregnant! Exciting! We'd be moving into a new house and then having a new baby! We prayed over that house every single day. We drove by it 1000 times, and had our children pray over it. As the months dragged on with no response from the bank, we began to pray more urgently, "God, please let us hear something this week." I think I have prayed that specific prayer 1,000,000,000 times. Unfortunately, the answer was always a no. When November rolled around with still no response and no end in sight, we began to get desperate. By this point, I was about 6 months pregnant, really hoping for a homebirth in our own home, and really wanting to be moved and settled before this baby's arrival. Believe me, I have prayed all those things 1,000,000,000 times as well. Finally, we withdrew the offer on the first home and placed another offer on a foreclosure. It's not in our ideal location, but the house/lot itself will work much better for us, and it's a foreclosure, so "theoretically," we should be able to close quickly. Well, it's just been snag after snag. It's nothing major, and nothing that should be holding us up, but here I am, two weeks from my due date without a closing date on the books. So that homebirth I've been praying for? Not gonna happen. It's okay. I'm thankful for the birth center and my midwife friend, and most importantly that she loves Jesus, knows me and my struggle intimately, and is on my side in all of this... but it's still hard. 

In the meantime, I was super excited to get hired for this new teaching job, and seeing some sort of light at the end of the tunnel in that area of our life... but unfortunately, circumstances beyond everyone's control have sort of put that on the backburner as well. But God, it felt like such a sure thing one day, and then the rug was pulled from under me the next?. I don't get it. (And person who I know feels responsible and is bending over backward for me in this circumstance, PLEASE know I do not blame you or hold you responsible in any way. I know that you are 100% on my side and doing everything you can to make it work. We are all put in situations beyond our control at times, and I KNOW that's where you are at right now. I just need to purge. Please forgive.) 

This is a hard season for me. I feel like every specific prayer I've asked of God is met with a no. I do not get it, at all. I have prayed for the past year, "God, please show me your purpose and your plan. Please show me the lesson. Please." And I am just as lost. I have no clue what the purpose is behind all of this waiting and disappointment. I am totally discouraged to ask anything of God right now. I've fallen back on cop-out prayers, and just asking God to do whatever His will is, because I am afraid of further disappointment. Fear is building about this impending birth and baby, and quite frankly, I'm afraid to pray for it. I don't want a "no" in that area. I don't want another tragedy on my hands. I know some people can look at me and my life (myself included) and see how ironic it is that when I lost a baby and went through a terrible circumstance, I could easily praise God, but now this "series of unfortunate events" has brought me to my knees. The difference? When we lost Ransom, I could see and feel God's presence and purpose SO clearly. For the past year, I'm choosing trust by an act of the will. This is so much harder. I don't understand why God seems to answer other people's prayers and not mine. It hurts. It's hard. I don't know if or when I'll ever have answers to the "whys" of this season. I don't know if or when this season will end. For Mother Theresa, it lasted 40 years. Who am I? 

Comparatively speaking, my life is good. I am blessed. I totally get that. Quite frankly, it only makes me feel worse that I can be the sort of person who feels better by seeing other people in terrible circumstances. Actually, it makes me more sad to know that there are so many people who have it so much harder than I do, with no relief or end in sight. I don't get that either. I'm full of questions. I'm wrestling. I'm choosing belief by an act of the will. It is hard. 

So, I don't really have some sort of happy wrap-up to this blog. I wish I did. I will leave you with the worship song that most accurately reflects my heart at this moment, and I'll ask you to pray for me. 

Small Enough - Nichole Nordeman

Oh Great God, be small enough to hear me now. 
There were times when I was crying from the dark of Daniel's den, 
And I have asked you once or twice if you would part the seas again. 
But tonight I do not need a fiery pillar in the sky, 
Just wanna know, you're gonna hold me if I start to cry. 

Oh Great God be small enough to hear me now..Oh Great God, be close enough to feel me now. 

There have been moments when I could not face Goliath on my own, 
And how could I forget we've marched around our share of Jerichos. 
But I will not be setting out a fleece for you tonight. 
I just want to know that everything will be alright. 

Oh Great God, be close enough to feel you now.
All praise and all the honor be to the God of ancient mysteries,
Whose every sign and wonder turned the pages of our history. 
But tonight my heart is heavy and I cannot keep from whispering this prayer...Are you there?

And I know you could leave writing on the wall thats just for me, 
Or send wisdom while I'm sleeping, like in Solomons sweet dreams. 
But I don't need the strength of Sampson, or a chariot in the end. 
Just wanna know that you still know how many hairs are on my head. 

Oh Great God, are you small enough? Be small enough to hear me now....