Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Standing out in a small town

"Which one is yours?" the other mom asked.

It was a birthday party where a dozen adorable munchkins were bouncing around like giggling ping-pong balls, getting hyped on sugar and sunshine.

"The black one," I said, pointing. "Her name is Patience."

"Cool," the other mom said. "Mine's the one with the ringlets."

"Cool," I replied.

Maybe it was politically incorrect, what I said. Maybe I should've said, "The one in the pink shirt." But there were several little girls in pink. Or I could've said, "The one next to the birthday girl." But the birthday girl was surrounded by a whole gaggle of girls. So I simply described my daughter in an easily identifiable way. Because guess what? She's black. And she was the only one.

We live in a small town painfully lacking in diversity. That's our reality. It is what it is. And I've noticed something about having a black daughter in a rural, white town: She stands out. (I've blogged about that before, here.)

In fact, when another little kid sees my daughter for the first time, they usually gawk. Because they're experiencing something new. They've never seen such dark skin. They've never seen such a magnificent 'fro. They stare, and sometimes reach out and touch, and take it all in with wonder and curiosity and zero judgment. And I love their unabashed honesty. But their parents often swoop in, embarrassed, and snatch them away, saying, "Oh, I'm so sorry."

What an interesting reaction. What are you sorry about exactly? That your child invaded my daughter's personal space? No big deal, that's what kids do. That your child is observant and curious? No problem, those are positive qualities.

Or are you sorry that your child drew attention to the fact my daughter's skin is black? Is that what's going through your mind?

Whoa. Now we're getting serious. Is that what you're sorry about? Are you uncomfortable because your child either directly or indirectly acknowledged the color of my child's skin and you're not sure how I'll react? Allow me to let you off the hook right now: That doesn't bother me one bit. It's okay to notice that Patience is black because...well, she's black. Noticing that about her is no different than noticing that Shaq is really tall. Or Dwayne Johnson has really buff arms. Or Amy Adams has the most beautiful red hair I've ever seen, and yes I'm jealous.

No, it doesn't offend me when people notice. We should celebrate the things that make us different and unique. The things that make us special. I want my daughter to be proud of who she is. Proud of the swirling thunderstorm of the tightest curls God ever made on her head. Proud of the burnished mahogany polished to perfection that is her skin. It's not racist to notice those beautiful things about her. It's only offensive if you try to pretend she isn't who she is. It's only racist if it changes your perceptions, actions, or responses.

And woe to you if that happens, because then you will have to meet Mama Bear. But that's a post for another day.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


I've started and abandoned this post a hundred times. I've tried to process and put down words that would make sense...that would sufficiently articulate my feelings. (Ugh. Feelings. Gross.) I've typed and then erased dozens of words that no one will ever read in my quest to share my heart with you. And I think I'm ready to talk about it now.

It's been almost four weeks since our foster son, LH, returned home to his biological parents, after living with us for six months. After coming to us at three days old and winning us over with his tiny button nose and pointy elfin ears. And in these past four weeks without him, I've discovered with renewed certainty something I've long suspected: I am blessed beyond measure.

Before I elaborate on that, let me address the question everyone's either been asking or thinking: How are you holding up? The answer is: Fine. I'm just fine. Yes, I miss him and I was sad to let him go and I ache for him sometimes...but I'm fine. Yes, part of me was devastated when his mom brought him to see me the other day and he looked at me like "Who the heck are you?" But I'm going to be okay.

And here's why: I am blessed beyond measure.

I'm so blessed, in fact, that I probably can't even begin to explain to you how "lucky" I am. First of all, I have a driver's license and a vehicle that starts up 99 out of 100 times. Many people don't. LH's mom doesn't. I own a home and have a stable, supportive family. Can everyone say that? LH's mom can't.

I know how to balance a checkbook, make a grocery list, keep a budget, make meals from scratch, and open a savings account. People, do you realize these are not universal skills? Do you realize how lucky I am that I was taught how to do those things? And that I was raised to have the confidence to either ask for help or figure it out on my own if I don't know how to do something? And by lucky I mean "by the grace of God go I."

Have you ever thought about how intimidating it would be to go into a bank if you'd never done it before, never seen it done, never graduated high school, never written a check? Never had anything real with your name on it?

There are so many people out there who are in need. In need of help, or a friend. In need of teaching, or guidance, or financial resources, or all of the above. People who were too busy being abused or neglected growing up to learn basic life skills. And here I am, my life overflowing with blessing, and not even appreciating it.

At least, I wasn't before. Before my foster son. But ever since he came and went - every time I think of him - I can't help but think of how "lucky" I am.

Like I said, part of me really misses him. And another part feels guilty for maybe not missing him enough. For not crying myself to sleep every night. But does shrugging and saying "I'm doing okay without him" make me heartless? I don't believe so.

Every day I got to spend with LH was a gift, but I'm not heartless for moving on and wondering when we'll get a call to pick up another child. I'm not heartless for saying, "Go with God" to the little guy and preparing myself for the next kid. Because by God's grace I have blessings to spare in a world where love, security, and peace are in increasingly short supply. So I'm not going to apologize for giving all I could to him and then letting him go.

It doesn't mean I didn't love him. It doesn't mean I'm heartless. It means I am blessed beyond measure.