Parenting as Narrating

“Are those for Gabe?” Owen asks. He is four, tall, freckled, inquisitive, looking over my shoulder at the computer screen. He sees me perusing car seats, and is curious if they are for his little brother. I stumble around internally, searching my brain for the right mixture of words. “No. You know how our family has everything we need, and even so many things we want? Not all families have that. Mommy gets to help those families get what they need.”

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
“Good Bones”
Maggie Smith

He is perplexed but accepts the answer, and I am simultaneously saddened and relieved. He knows now that not all families are able to buy what they need. He has some sort of idea, now, that when Mommy is receiving UPS packages, they are filled with items that others in the community have helped pay for, so that a foster family has a stroller, or a family at risk for children being removed has enough mattresses. He knows, now, that these things do not appear magically, or without effort.

I should feel good about this teachable moment. Maybe I do, a little bit. Mostly, I feel sad, I feel the loss of his innocence. I feel the weight of narrating the story of life to my child, and the fact that the story is often tragic.

For every child loved, a child broken, bagged, sunk in a lake.

Keep reading at Fathom Mag.

On Racial Reconciliation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18

I’ve heard these verses preached dozens of times in my life, years upon years of sermons about the miraculous work of Christ making a way for us to be united with Him, the old passing away, the new coming. It is entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that in those dozens of sermons, words were preached about the glorious extension of that uniting with Christ—the joy of being united to other image bearers, the co-reconciled. Whether I have heard these verses taught that way or not, I can’t say, but I know that in the past few years they have taken on entirely new meaning to me as I have begun to explore the world of racial justice, and, fittingly, racial reconciliation.

My life, by virtue of skin color, economic status, educational opportunities, and a host of other things has been filled with what I now see as a privilege that is mine to acknowledge, harness, and leverage as I seek to model my life after Christ’s reconciliatory work. And “with great privilege comes great responsibility.”

Keep reading at The Influence Network.

Why “Small” Sins are So Dangerous

I am thirteen years old, sitting in a church pew with a friend and our youth pastor who has recently proposed to his girlfriend. My friend and I are gushing over the fairytale we imagine their romance to be. “Why don’t you have a ring, though?” my friend asks. I am horrified. Of course he doesn’t have a ring. That’s not how engagement works. How could she possibly ask such a silly question? What is wrong with her?

I am seventeen years old, riding in the back of a friend’s car. There are four of us together, maybe five. The details are vague now, where we are going, what we are doing, who has crushes on whom, but one feeling and one interaction are crystal clear. A friend casually, comfortably asks a question about something she does not understand, admitting her ignorance on an unimportant topic. My heart rate skyrockets. Doesn’t she know that not knowing is humiliating? Does she not feel the shift in the universe that I do when uncertainty is made public? What is wrong with her?

I am twenty-three years old, taking notes in a meeting at work. Afterwards, a co-worker comes over to my desk to talk to me about the discussion. She interprets something our boss had stated and I am shocked. I heard nothing of the sort. She turns out to be right, and I am internally knocked off-kilter. My sense of self-worth plummets; I am defensive and guarded for the rest of the day. How could I have sat in the same room and misunderstood the conversation? What is wrong with me?

It’s likely that none of these stories have led you to think, “Well, Abby, you were sinning. That’s what’s wrong with you.” After all, I was not actively intending to hurt anyone in any of these situations. In fact, in the first two, I wanted to protect my friends, or at least that’s what I told myself.

Keeping reading at iBelieve

New Podcast Episode: Hopefully Resisting Despair in the Face of Racial Tragedies

The fourth episode of My Sista’s Keeper: Shalom in the City’s Monthly Conversation on Race & Unity is available now.

On this episode of My Sistas’ Keeper, Osheta and I discuss how to hopefully resist the spirit of despair when talking about race, specifically on social media. We share our honest, raw emotions about the Philando Castile verdict and the killing of Charleena Lyles. We also discuss Scripture about despair and respond to listener questions about to respond to race-related tragedies and police brutality:

How should Shalom Sistas talk to their children, students, etc., about these events?

What should a Shalom Sista do if her church is silent in the face of injustice?

How can white Shalom Sistas be allies right now?

Is there a way for Shalom Sistas to engage with their local police departments to talk about racial profiling, etc.?

How can Shalom Sistas leverage whatever platform they have (blog, community office, leadership position, ministry, relationships) to shed light on these tragedies and say what needs to be said?

What are you longing to hear spoken or named–what do you think God is longing to hear spoken or named from pulpits?

We mention:

We want to know what you think about this episode and what this conversation has you thinking about: Come join us on Facebook at the Shalom Sistas’ Hangout and share your thoughts!

________________________________
Want more Shalom in your life? 

Subscribe to the podcast via the Podcasts App, iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here.

You can join the Shalom in the City conversation over in our Shalom Sista’s Hangout, as well as on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Hope to see you in some of these Shalom Spaces!

Is it Possible to be Humble and Use Social Media? 

It takes little more than a moment on any social media site, be it Twitter, Facebook, or a host of others, before one comes across a range of opinions and emotions. Someone is angry! Someone is sad! Someone is happy! Someone is excited! Someone is downright outraged!

It can be overwhelming to say the least, can’t it? Those blank boxes with the blinking cursors invite us to share our thoughts with the world, or to reply to someone else’s thoughts, or to comment on someone else’s thoughts about another someone else’s thoughts, and before we know it, we’re contributing to the online cacophony with our opinions, ideas, perspectives, and certainty that what we have to say needed to be said, and all the more needs to be heard (and liked).

While a broad swath of human behavior can be quickly observed soon after logging into a social media site, one posture is more rarely seen—humility. In fact, some wonder if humility is even possible in the online space. Can one share her opinions in writing and quibble back and forth in comment threads with humility? Can one post pictures of a vacation, or critique an article, or share a new blog post with humility?

Keep reading at iBelieve. 

Review: “The Curious Christian” by Barnabas Piper

It’s not often that I write “Bravo!!!” (complete with, yes, three exclamation points) at the end of a book’s introduction. The Curious Christian: How Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life by Barnabas Piper, however, led me to do exactly that. As unusual as that early display of endorsement was, though, it wasn’t the introduction to the book that hooked me. Even earlier than that, in the dedication section, Piper convinced me that this book was a treasure.

“For my mother,” he writes. “I remember lying on top of the luggage in the back of our Chevy Caprice ‘Woody’ Station Wagon on the endless drive from Minnesota to Georgia and listening to you read adventure stories for me to hear all the way in the back and reading so well I forgot how bored I was.’”

Piper goes on to list memory after memory of how his mother sparked curiosity in him, how she taught him, how she modeled a love of learning for him, how she shaped and inspired him.  Trips to the library, hours spent on sidelines of the football field, the kitchen radio tuned to Fresh Air by NPR or Prairie Home Companion, Piper’s mother showed him a zest for life. “I wrote the words,” he writes. “But the ideas are yours.”

Keep reading at The Influence Network.

New Podcast Episode: Hopefully Resisting Defensiveness in Conversations on Race

The third episode of My Sista’s Keeper: Shalom in the City’s Monthly Conversation on Race & Unity is here!

On this episode of My Sistas’ Keeper, we discuss how to hopefully resist the spirit of defensiveness when talking about race, specifically on social media. We consider some practical ways to emulate Jesus’ posture toward others described in 1 Peter 2:23, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

We also discuss the terms backfire effect and confirmation bias, and engage listener comments and questions such as how to know when to enter into an online conversation, when to just keep scrolling, and how to encourage offline extensions of online dialogue.

We mention:

________________________________
We want to know what you think about this episode and what this conversation has you thinking about: Come join us on Facebook at the Shalom Sistas’ Hangout and share your thoughts!
________________________________
Want more Shalom in your life? 

Subscribe to the podcast via the Podcasts App, iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here.

You can join the Shalom in the City conversation over in our Shalom Sista’s Hangout, as well as on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Hope to see you in some of these Shalom Spaces!

Also, you can join the launch team for Osheta’s upcoming book, Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World. I have the joy of writing the downloadable study guide for the book! Comment on this post or message me here if you’d like to join the launch team.

Win a Copy of Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives

Winner Announced! Scroll on down and see if it’s you! If not, I highly encourage you to snag a copy of Everbloom here.

_____________

I am delighted to be giving away a copy of Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives by the Women of Redbud Writers Guild.

By way of a preview, a few paragraphs from two of the stories.

“I know the stories. Of mothers in Syria being forced to choose which child to take as they flee. Of women and girls sold and trafficked. Of friends around the globe and in my city who battle chronic and undiagnosed illness; of friends who, because of the color of their skin or the socio-economic bracket they’ve been born into, cry out “help” much more often and healthily. But me? I’m a suburban mom with a new bleeding problem. I know only a smidgen of suffering.

Yet, I am learning my body has deep lessons to teach me. That this triad of mind, body, and soul is a pretty construct that doesn’t hold up. My body exposes where I’ve chosen to dig down my roots. Often, it turns out, they’re in rocky soil.”
I Am a Desperate Woman by Ashley Hales
(twitter | fb | insta)

“I didn’t want to be the girl whose house always had a rice pot plugged in on the counter, whose pantry was filled with seaweed and saimin noodles and Spam, whose fridge smelled of kimchee when you opened it. My taste buds never understood why the tiny stacks in the Lunchables box were anything to be desired, beyond being a way for me to line up on the shelf right next to my peers. I wanted to fit in, to belong, to be seen.”
Red Lips, Holy Rebellion, and Lady Danger by Alia Joy
(twitter | fb | insta)

They keep you wanting more, no? Enter to win so you can read more of these stunning stories, along with dozens of others. If you just can’t wait, order a copy here and if you happen to be the giveaway winner, you can pass a copy along to a woman in your life.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’ll announce the winner on Saturday – best wishes!

the facebook group: FAQs

Recently, I announced a new series on supporting foster and adoptive families. You can find the first three posts here.

What is this Facebook group you speak of?
In September 2015, some friends of mine (Jenny and Elizabeth) were opening a foster pantry (read all the details here!) and I offered to try out some online fundraising to get some needed items stocked. 24 hours later, nearly $2000 had been raised. On Facebook. It was clear that momentum had built and that people were eager to do more to serve foster/adopt/kinship families, so I started a Facebook group to share ongoing needs.

What goes on in there?
– Raising money for foster pantry items
When Jenny or Elizabeth lets me know about an item that needs to be restocked in the foster pantry, I head to the Facebook group and do some fundraising. Depending on how things are going with people donated used items, sometimes we’ll decide to wait and do a big fundraiser for several items a few times a year. At times, we also learn of families who are at risk for CPS-intervention because of insecure housing who have obtained an apartment but have no furnishings, and we’ll do fundraisers for that as well.

The fundraisers, frankly, look a lot like me posting incessantly and convincing people that even giving $2 makes a difference. I’m silly, loud, and pep rally-ish, and people give either because they love it or because they want me to be quiet. I’m cool with either.

Here are some sample posts from fundraisers!

– Meal calendars
We regularly post meal calendars (favorite site is Meal Train) where people can directly sign up to take a meal to a family, post in the comments that they can cook but not deliver (or vice versa) and look for a partner, be prompted to donate toward take out, or sign up to cook and deliver a meal that they’ll be reimbursed for through our Monthly Meals program (post to come). Those posts look like this.

– Promoting adoption fundraisers
– Posting information on classes for becoming a certified foster babysitter
– Offering items that are no longer needed to other families
– Coordinating rides, pick-up/drop-off of items, etc.

How could I start a Facebook group?
– Talk to local foster/adoptive families and/or CPS workers to determine what would be truly supportive in your community and determine if a FB group could be a part of it.

– Consider if you want to be responsible for running the group, if you’d like to do it with a group of friends, or if you’re not comfortable with/capable of posting regularly, etc. Who do you know that may be?

– Get very familiar with unsplash.com. Unsplash has a great selection of free stock photos that I use constantly when posting meal calendars, a request for a ride or delivery, etc. Pictures make a huge difference in visibility and interaction on Facebook.

– Whoever is in charge of this little corner of the Internet must be comfortable posting frequently when the need warrants it. When there isn’t a pressing need, go quiet. When there is, or when it’s time to do a fundraiser, go crazy! The more excited you are, the more momentum builds.

– PayPal and Venmo make it easy for people to give, as well as offering the option for checks to be sent.

____________________

I’m here for you! Comment with questions or shoot me an email.

New Podcast Episode: Hopefully Resisting Racial Division

The second episode of My Sista’s Keeper: Shalom in the City’s Monthly Conversation on Race & Unity is here! This month, Osheta and I are exploring the idea of hopefully resisting division.

When it comes to racial reconciliation conversations, what words seem to make us aware of division unlike any other? You got it, race/racism/racist. As challenging as those words are to discuss, we think it’s worth it to really press in to what they mean in order to have a common, working definition as we go forward.

So, on this episode, we’re diving deep and getting all kinds of uncomfortable as we look at how race and racism operate in the world today. And we promise you, every word we say and question we ask – it’s all in the name of peacemaking.

We’ll be honest with you, this episode had us pretty sweaty! We share stories, ask questions, and speak truths that we are confident are necessary for bringing about true Shalom in racial reconciliation. It’s a deep one, but we think it’s a good, too.

We want to know what you think about this episode and what this conversation has you thinking about: Come join us on Facebook at the Shalom Sistas’ Hangout and share your thoughts!
________________________________
Want more Shalom in your life? 

Subscribe to the podcast via the Podcasts App, iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here.

You can join the Shalom in the City conversation over in our Shalom Sista’s Hangout, as well as on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Hope to see you in some of these Shalom Spaces!