The Only Words from Which I’ll Never Walk Away

The Only Words I Will Never Walk Away From

I’ve been gone a while.

No you didn’t notice because you were busy living your life. And I was busy living mine- just away from the screens and the typed words for a while.  A friend of mine and I took a week away from the media- social and otherwise- anything that added to the tightening in my chest I started feeling on election day. We took a week from all of that but I haven’t written in a month. Not since the day before the election.

After that day it was hard to breathe. It was hard to listen. There was so much noise. So many opinions and fears and so much anger and so much hate. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t write.

There’s a scene in a movie, The Secret Life of Bees, where a character gets so weighed down by the pain and the sadness in her world that she weighs herself down with rocks in a pond and doesn’t come up again. That scene broke me because I’ve felt weighed down before. I’ve experienced desperation that feels inescapable. I’ve felt so lost and so broken and so heavy.  After the election, I started to feel weighed down again, and all the posts and the articles and the noise felt like rocks on my chest. I was fighting to keep my head above the water. And all that time I kept asking myself, What can I say? What should I say?

The truth is, I didn’t want to talk.

I didn’t want to talk politics.

I didn’t want to talk race.

I don’t want to talk about anything. Period.

But it’s hard for a writer to stay away from words.

So I said yes when a friend invited me to dinner with a group of women who wanted to talk about post-election fears, questions and concerns.

I said yes to meeting with this diverse group of women, and we talked about mushroom caps and nursing babies and black hair care and black heart care. We talked about the church and it’s role in reconciliation. We talked about love and it’s role in healing. There was laughter, there were tears, there were honest questions and honest answers.

You know what? While we talked something inside of me loosened. The tightening released and I breathed a little easier. While we talked, some of that weight came off. It was like someone was heaving those rocks off my chest.

I left that night feeling like we’d taken a step. I don’t know how far, but we took a step and I’m grateful.

I’m still feeling pretty fragile these days. Still avoiding political posts and articles because I’m far too frail to read them right now. I’ve been snuggling pretty close to Jesus these days. Breathing deeply- inhaling all His love and peace and His Words. His Words. It’s hard for this writer to stay away from His Words. 

“…I have overcome the world.”

“Be anxious in nothing…”

“Casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.”

“Be strong and courageous…”

“Fear not, for I am with you…”

“For God so loved the world…”

“Peace I give to you…”

Oh they sustain me, they ground me, they fill me and empty me all at once.

When I have nothing to say, He has said it all. When the words this world offers weigh me down, His words lift me, they draw me in, squeeze me tight.

They are the only words from which I’ll never walk away. They are the only words I’ll ever need.

Maybe all the other noise is too loud for you, too? Maybe the posts on social media and the news, and yes even the blogs are too loud and heavy? Maybe you need to snuggle close to Jesus and tune out all of the other words? They are the greatest words you’ll ever hear.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…”

John 1:1-2 (emphasis added)

 

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Why It’s Okay to Start Advent Early This Year

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There’s a rumor going around that America is going to hell- and both presidential candidates are holding a hand basket that will take it there. I can’t recall another election season that has had so many people simultaneously sighing and crying and saying, “This is the best we can do?” Our entire country is collectively holding its breath in uneasy anticipation of tomorrow’s election results. It’s like watching die-hard sports fans root for their favorite team in the big game, except this time defeat means more than a loss of pride, it means possibly losing everything they’ve ever stood for. It is a critical time in America.

Yet, I woke up this past Saturday morning feeling unmistakable joy and anticipation for Christmas.

It’s a bit early for Christmas joy isn’t it? We haven’t even loosened our belts to accommodate all those extra calories at Thanksgiving yet. The weather is still deciding between fall and summer and people are still getting frowned at for playing a little Christmas music here and there. For goodness sake, election day is tomorrow! How can I be focused on Christmas?

But it wasn’t dreaming of Christmas decorations that lit my heart Saturday morning. It wasn’t the gifts or the trees, or the cookies or the parties. It wasn’t Christmas “season” at all- it was the Christ. Just Christ. Just Jesus. Just, Emmanuel. He is all I’ve ever needed. He is all I need still.

The dictionary definition of Advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event”. The Christian Theological definition of Advent refers to the coming of Christ and is marked on the calendar as the four weeks before Christmas, starting on a Sunday.

I love advent season every year. I love choosing an advent Bible reading plan, love our special advent readings and activities with the kids every night. Love singing songs and setting my heart to Christ’s coming. I love trying to relive the joy and wonder of that first Noel by pouring over that story in Luke.

But I realized something Saturday morning when God woke me up with Christmas on my heart. Maybe this advent season I don’t need to set my heart on waiting for Christ to come. Maybe this year I need to set my heart on the truth that Christ is already here.

We no longer need a star to guide us. We don’t need a chorus of angels to sing. We don’t need to read the prophecies and wonder if this is true. Emmanuel is already with us. He has already come to the earth. He has already made a new way. He has already conquered. He has already won. He is already purposefully involved in the lives of His people on every continent. In every nation. He already reigns supreme. This Advent season we don’t have to sit back and wait for Christ’s coming. He is here!

I think God wants to start Advent season in my heart a bit earlier this year. I think He wants to fill me with expectation and hope and wonder at what God can do and is going RIGHT NOW. I don’t have to wait for the miraculous. I don’t have to wait for communion with Jesus. I don’t have to wait for a new way.

In light of all the things that feel “on the line” and “in the hands” of this election, I think God wants to draw me close and remind me that there is no authority higher than His, no dominion greater that His, no ruler stronger than He- right now. There is no election more important than our election as His sons and daughters. There is NO ONE worthy to lead us save the One who made us. None but Jesus. It is true today and tomorrow and forever.

No matter who wins tomorrow- Jesus has already won. We- His sons and His daughters- we’ve won, too. Will there be hardship and trouble? Jesus said there would be. But He also overcame it all. Already.

And so today and tomorrow and forever, and in this season of waiting and expectation, may my heart be stayed on Emmanuel. May my fears be swallowed in His peace, may my worries be drowned in His rule, may my strength be rooted in His love, may my hope be sure in His authority, may my life be a testimony to His grace.

Presidents change, leadership shifts. But the work I am called to do, the people I am called to love, God’s ultimate plan of reconciling people to Himself- none of this changes no matter who is in the White House and I can do this work right now and tomorrow and always, on this earth.

Take heart. Jesus is no longer coming. He is already here. And He reigns matchless and  supreme forever and ever.

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An Invitation into our Homeschool Day

"Peanut" our 7 year-old, engaged in an art lesson.

If you were to ask people who know me well  to list the things I am passionate about, education would definitely make that list, underneath faith and family. I haven’t yet talked about education on this blog so I figured I’d introduce the topic with a look into our homeschooling day, since “how” we homeschool is something I am asked about quite a bit. So come on in! I’m inviting you to visit our school for the day!

The morning starts for me before the sun rises. I make my way downstairs and spend some time journaling, praying and reading my Bible- enjoying the only time most of this day that the house will be quiet. Then I throw a load of laundry in, check my meal plan for the day to make sure nothing needs to go in the crock pot, then look through our school plans and ready any materials.

Soon the 5 and 4 year-olds will be up, like conjoined twins they operate on the same rhythm. I’ll kiss their faces and feed them a morning snack of fruit or yogurt since they won’t be hungry for a larger breakfast for at least an hour. They scamper off to play as the sun, shy at first, now boldly lights the morning sky.

I have some time to go shower and dress since our rule for school days is that the teacher and her students are always dressed and ready. I like that our dress code helps us respect the work we do here and also prevents us from having to run around and dress quickly later in the day should we decide a spontaneous trip to the library or zoo or park is necessary to our studies. After dressing, I call the 4 year-old away from an epic Octonauts action figure battle long enough to wrap her unruly curls in a tight pony tail. Then I wake my late sleeping 7 year-old with the promise of food and request that she come downstairs dressed for school. The toddler is singing in his crib but my husband will bring him down diapered and dressed before he leaves for work so I smile at his song and head down to the kitchen to make breakfast.

After breakfast and chores, there is no real structure set in place thanks to the wild toddler. It’s quite difficult to sit and teach just about anything with a toddler climbing on the furniture, or throwing a tantrum or generally destroying things, so our morning structure is loose.

Both the 5  and 7 year olds  have “chosen work” for the day- a concept I learned from my years in a Montessori classroom and implemented in our school. Their chosen work is just the daily lessons I choose for them (mostly based on our curriculum) that they must complete with me before the end of the day. Their basic lessons include reading, copy work (writing) math and math facts, art, music, science and history. However my 7 year old also has grammar, narration (re-telling or narrating a story) dictation (writing what you hear) and poetry memorization. Some days we use a check list to mark off what they’ve completed.  All of their other explorations and lessons are self led, though I often add items to their chosen work that reflect where their curiosities have been recently.

For instance, we spent a morning recently learning about hydrofoils after my 5 year-old discovered them in a book. Last week my 7 year-old  was curious about how the human ear works, so this week we will read books and watch You Tube videos about the human ear until her curiosity is satisfied. Then she’ll label a diagram of the ear and write a few sentences about what she’s learned, and file her work in her school binder’s “Science” section. A few weeks ago we studied Odysseus and the Cyclops. We colored and labeled maps of ancient Greece and recorded Odysseus’ journey back home after the 10 year war in Troy. My five year old was so entranced by the story that we didn’t move on to study ancient Rome until we had gotten more books about Odysseus from the library, including learning about the Minotaur and the Cyclops in more depth. He still feels sad that all of Odysseus’ men died, but is happy Odysseus finally got to see his son and wife again.

We work throughout the whole day to complete their chosen work, but art and music lessons are online so they can and must complete them independently before lunch. The bulk of their chosen work is completed in the afternoon while the toddler naps.  My 4 year old has work boxes she can choose from if she desires, but often she works on her own “projects” while the others do their chosen work. She is reluctant to start any formal schooling with me unless she initiates it and I never force her to do anything academic. Just yesterday, however, she got out some paper and her markers and started writing her letters and numbers, squealing with delight and rushing to show me every time she made a new letter or number. She has learned so much just from observing the lessons of her siblings.

Since most of their academics must wait until the afternoon, much of our morning, after chores and music and art lessons, is choice time: they can do whatever they choose. This is very exciting for all of us! It is during choice time that I really start to see their personal interests. One week my five year-old spent most of his choice time outdoors practicing with the new hand saw I gave him. He cut down wild branches and thick weeds all over our yard and then planned a project to build with them. Another week he spent many free hours building complicated structures out of our wooden blocks. For a few days he was quite enamored with learning about electricity using our snap circuits, and taking things with batteries apart all around the house and putting them together again to see if they would still work. I love that he has time to explore his interests at length. I love that he is learning to work with his mind and his hands.

All of them often choose to be outdoors for most or all of choice time, but on cooler days play dough or painting or sensory tubs get lots of use. My oldest enjoys making books or writing movies and will spend much of her time perfecting illustration techniques or asking how to spell certain words. I play with the toddler or read him books or he plays with his siblings while I fold laundry and make lunch. We very much enjoy our free choice mornings.  Directly after lunch is when our day gets much more structured.

With the toddler strapped in his chair, we finish lunch and then read our daily devotional. We are currently using a book written about the real life stories of missionaries around the world. After that we begin either our history or science work, still seated at the table. We study history twice a week and science twice a week for about an hour each time, not including the additional reading we do at other times. (Our history curriculum is a book in story format that we have on cd so we listen to our history chapters in the car during the week.) History table work usually involves map work, narration and dictation, and a project. We made terra cotta pots for our unit on ancient Greece. Science usually involves diagramming or drawing, a project, a video, and lots of reading. All papers are filed in their school binders for review and keepsake. If the toddler can play in his high chair during this time we let him, or else he is released and plays with toys around the table or “helps” me with the project we are doing.

After science/history they gather around the coffee table with coloring pages, or note booking papers, to listen to whatever audio book we’re enjoying at the moment, which now happens to be the original Peter Pan.  I lay the toddler down for his nap then straighten the kitchen while they listen. My husband comes home for lunch around this time so I talk with him as well.

After quite some time with the audio book, my preschooler will take her nap while the oldest two and I complete the rest of their chosen work. This could take just one more hour or 2+ hours depending on which lessons need to be completed and how smoothly this time goes. I try to complete chosen work with my 5 year-old first as he still gets tired in the afternoons and will rest when his work is done. After chosen work with both children is complete, our school day is done! My 7 year-old chooses a quiet time activity and I take a “break” checking email, social media, or attempting to rest before the toddler wakes up.

This is what most of our school day will be like each day Monday through Thursday, unless we have a field trip or take a spontaneous trip out of the house for some reason. We participate in a homeschool co-op on Friday mornings, where the kids take classes and I teach, so we do not have school at home on those days.

Thanks for coming along today! Any questions about our school day? Hopefully soon I will write a post about why we chose to home school in the first place. Until then-

xoxoLatrice

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From the Memoirs on a Thursday: Frost in Wisconsin

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There’s something about the first frost each year that takes me back to my childhood in Wisconsin…

Sissy and I are bustling about our two bedroom apartment, getting ready for school. Daddy adjusts the tie around his neck and grabs his briefcase before stooping down low to kiss our faces. “Frosted over last night and it’s going to be cold today. Sure you don’t want to wear those long underwear I bought you?”

I giggle, partly because his thick mustache tickles my face, but mostly because he said underwear. Sissy, almost three years older than me, just rolls her eyes and declares, “No one wears long underwear, Dad! That’s weird.” I wonder if when I get to middle school I will roll my eyes and make declarations.

Daddy shrugs and kisses Momma goodbye, then leaves for work. I slurp down my Cream of Wheat while Sissy spoons oatmeal, and then I remember! My new purple boots! Right there near the door! I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to wear them and now, maybe now that all of that crunchy white frost masks the ground I have my chance. Momma sees my stare and smiles. “You can wear your new boots today, Trice.” I smile and nod.

We’ve never said it out loud, but Momma and I have an understanding. Maybe the small things that make me happy make her happy, too, because she always knows when I need to wear new boots, or splash in one more puddle, or wait just a little longer for one more shooting star. Carrying my bowl to the sink I rush to brush my teeth.  If I hurry, I can beat the school bus by 10 minutes today and have more time to play in the frost.

Glancing in the bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth,  I frown at my tight braids and wide eyes. Howard, the only other black kid in my grade, says I have the neck of a turtle and buggy eyes. Daddy says not everyone will like you and they’ll come up with a thousand reasons why, but not one of them matters as long as you like yourself. I look in the mirror again and wonder if I like myself? I hate the two french braids Momma insists I wear, “because I’m a wild child and my hair is always wild”. Then I smile. I like being a wild child. I like Momma and Daddy and even Sissy with her eye rolls, and I like myself, too. Stupid Howard. Daddy says we should try to make friends since we’re the only two black kids. I don’t see what that has to do with anything.  I make a mental note to beam Howard with a snowball on the playground when we get our first good packing snow. Of course that will earn me a spot on the wall during extra recess on Friday, but it will be worth it when he discovers he’s been beamed by a turtle with bug eyes whose got a heck of an arm to boot.

Smirking, I rush to the door and to my new boots! Sissy laughed at the shoe store when I chose purple boots, after she declared that “No one wears snow boots anymore.” She opted only for a new pair of high tops. Dummy!  I got high tops and boots. And purple is my favorite color. I pull the first warm boot on and tighten the velcro strap, wiggling my toes; then the second. Then I pull on my purple coat and gloves, leaving my scarf for last. Wisconsin autumns moving into winter are fiercely cold in the mornings, while the sun is still warming up, but I leave the scarf off my face so I can see my breath outside.

“I’ll be at the bus stop!” I yell and slam our apartment door behind me.

Outside, a cold wall slaps me in the face and my eyes water. Then I take a deep long breath and inhale the cold, “winter is on the horizon” smell. It’s one of my favorite scents.

Rushing down the huge, outdoor wooden staircase to the lower level, I skip across the pavement and finally into the open air and grass. Frost! Everywhere! I step onto the grass and savor the delightful crunch as one new boot and then the other make their acquaintance with this new ground. I slowly make a deliberate, winding path all the way to the bus stop at the far end of the lot, stopping for a moment to watch my breath swirl in front of me. I lay down in the grass and blow warm air on a nearby, frost laden leaf. It doesn’t change at all, so I pull off a glove and warm the leaf in my bare hand. The frost melts and the leaf bends and partially crumbles in my hand.

There will be no warming for the other leaves scattered about the ground. For months, starting now, the ground will continue to harden and the air will get colder. Lake Michigan will freeze and my winter adventures will begin.

I can’t wait.

 

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Meah’s October

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Hey Sis.

It’s October.

It’s actually the ninth October I’ve lived without you. It’s weird. This has always been your month. It still is, even with you gone, but of course it’s different now.

I miss you. I wish I had a flight scheduled to come see you for your 36th birthday. Wish we were planning pedicures and which movies to watch, and I wish I was begging you to do something cute with my hair because you know I can’t.

I only ever had one sister. It doesn’t feel right that I don’t have you anymore. And the Octobers keep coming just the same.

There are so many things I love about this month. The leaves here are finally starting to change colors. It seems like it takes summer forever to get the hint that we don’t want it anymore so it still hangs on here even into September, clinging to the afternoons like caterpillars on twigs. But finally, in October, I feel fall stretching its legs, settling in. It’s sweater weather again. You know how much I love to pull my sleeves down to my palms. And I can sit on the porch under a heavy quilt and read my Bible or think about you in that fresh air. I love watching your nieces and nephews jump in the leaves in our front yard.

Remember the leaves around Carthage College we’d play in when we were younger? Remember the great Maple and Oak trees that timed the changing and falling of their leaves just perfectly for us? We’d walk the paths and crunch them, freshly fallen, under our feet.

Those leaves were dying. Their season was over, but ours was going to go on forever. I could not even imagine any season without you. We were immortal.

And now it’s October. Now it has been 9 Octobers without you. Can you imagine? A world where we aren’t together? It’s the weirdest thing. Who on earth am I to tell what’s in my crockpot today or what new cookie recipe I am considering trying or any of the other kind of meaningless information on which we could easily build 3  hours of conversation? Who on earth? You left this void that just simply cannot be filled and now, Sis, it’s October and I want you to blow out your candles.

I know it’s a myth that this world is our permanent home. I know we’re passing through- some of us more quickly than others. I know that “God has set eternity on the hearts of men” and that there is not any amount of pain and suffering that can’t be cured by heaven. By the presence of God. By my Savior, our Savior, who takes away the sin of the world and wipes the tears from my eyes. My hope is sure and secure and unwavering. We will have a reunion someday that will.be.glorious. Thanks be to God!

But right now, Sis, right here on earth, it’s October. And I miss you.

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xoxo Trice

 

 

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Heal Us, Emmanuel- An Invitation for You

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“Jesus says the dividing wall is coming down. It’s been up far too long. We grieve that we are so late to the party. We have finally arrived at the troubling conclusion that there is brokenness in the way that we value and treat one another on the basis of skin color. We praise God that he is patient and gracious with us as we slowly come around to the reality that so many of our neighbors, brothers, and sisters have known their entire lives. We pray that they would forgive our blindness to their suffering as we move forward, seeking to learn and grow toward racial reconciliation.”  – Rev. Dr. Irwiyn Ince and Rev. Doug Serven (Heal Us, Emmanuel)

 

The Disclaimer

Let me start out by saying- I had this great video invitation for you. And then I had a bad meeting with some editing software. Eventually, I had to choose between my sanity and having an angry mental breakdown because why isn’t editing software more intuitive for people like me who have zero technical intuition? I chose my sanity. So, my friends, here is a written invitation instead, because words I can do.

Also- the opinion on this book is my own. I do NOT receive anything should you desire to purchase this book. Don’t forget to check your local library first!

The Appeal

Several days ago I told you how it felt to be a black wife and mom to a black husband and black children right here in this time. I asked you to listen. I asked you to pray. And many of you said, “Okay”. Many of you said, “We care”. And many of you also responded with an appeal of your own. “How?” “What do we do?” “What is our next step?” “We want to do more, tell us what that looks like.”

I wasn’t ready for this appeal and I really did not have an answer beyond listen and pray.

Then one of you, yes a commenter on that first post, recommended a book, and even though it is not THE ANSWER, I think it is a great step!

The Book

Heal Us Emmanuel- A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church

When this book was recommended, I quickly went online to research it more. I read the description and the reviews and it felt like a great starting place, so, after checking my local library for availability and finding none, I purchased it. I’m only through the intro and first chapter and I already feel excitement stirring in me. Maybe that’s hope stirring, too?

People, we NEED this book. We need the perspective it offers. We need the conversations it fosters. We need the healing it desires to promote. And the message of this book is so clearly, centrally focused on Jesus my heart was singing as I read the words. Don’t you see? There is always hope when God’s people come together to really hear HIS heart on an issue He most certainly is invested in. There is always progress when God’s people are mobilized and unified. There is always real change when we trade our own bias and prejudice of people for God’s unwavering truth that all are valued, all are cherished, all are loved. There is not a one of us who is dismissed, marginalized, or abandoned by God. There is not a one of us who should be dismissing, marginalizing, or abandoning others.

The Invitation

Will you read this book with me? Will you not only read it, but will you consider asking others in your circle to read it, to? Will you invite people who don’t look like you to join, too? Form a safe, (but maybe not always comfortable) space where you and your circle can talk about the things you are hearing in this book. Meet every week, or once a month or however frequently it works. Consider putting out some food, too. Food seems to help foster these types of conversations.

Listen to me, accept this invitation and I think you’ll see, with your very own eyes, walls coming down and unlikely friendships forming.  The stories you will learn, the perspective you will gain, the words you will say to each other and to God…goodness they could revive a hurting soul and awaken a love in you that you never knew was possible. Because I think, at some point, it could become less about every word on the page, and more about every person in your world. Doing this, reading this book, talking with people about the hard work of racial reconciliation, this could reconcile some things in your own heart, too. God let it be, in every single one of us, let it be.

Will you join me?

A Little Bit of Fun

If you’re accepting this invitation, will you let me know? Just tell me yes here, and then when you get your book, post a picture of yourself with your copy on Facebook or Instagram and make sure to tag me. You could even post a picture of your group when you start meeting, too! I’ll be doing the same. And of course, let me know how it’s going if you’d like to. Email me or message me your thoughts. I’ll be posting about things I’m learning from the book from time to time so please join the discussion!

A Whole Lot of Thanks

Thank you for listening. Thank you for praying. Thank you for considering this invitation.

xoxo Latrice

 

 

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Rest from the Hard Work

 “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

I took a day “off” today and reconnected with a friend I had met just once before, and her children, at the zoo. This friend reached out after I wrote my first post last Thursday afternoon, and we met again today and realized how much we had in common. We shared some hugs and lots of laughs and watched our children become fast friends.

 

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We enjoyed the beautiful weather- took deep breaths and the long walk around the zoo.

My kids laughed with her kids. Huge belly laughs.

We laughed with each other.

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Our boys were so silly together.

They jumped and climbed and ran. They threw themselves into things and laughed even harder.

We took a train ride.

A few of our kids rode horses.

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You guys, it was so fun.

It was so peaceful.

It was so  joy-filled.

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The last few days have been hard. Building bridges is not easy work. It’s exhausting and challenging and mentally and emotionally draining. That’s probably the reason some people don’t even bother. That’s probably the reason some people stay silent on the issues that are important to them- because the work is just too messy, too gritty, too hard.

I didn’t respond to messages today, (except to one saying I could not respond). I didn’t read comments, didn’t try to find answers.

I rested.

I’m thankful that God offers rest from the hard work. I’m thankful that He offers satisfaction in the midst of toil.

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Maybe you need some rest today, too? Maybe a long walk outside or a big chocolate bar hiding in your closet so you don’t have to share? Maybe you need to snuggle into bed and watch your favorite movie?

Whatever gives you rest, maybe you need to find it today.

There is satisfaction in the midst of toil. “This is the gift of God.” 

xoxo Latrice

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From the Memoirs: My Grandma Says that’s Ugly (and my response to your comments from last week’s post)

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My Grandma walked everywhere she went. And when we were there to visit, my big sister Meah and I walked, too. I remember one day, we all walked to the Farmer’s Market in her hometown of Beloit, WI, with bags slung over our shoulders for the bounty we’d collect.

It was a long way from Grandma’s house. Meah and I were getting hot and tired and we started arguing about something. It escalated and we were yelling and pushing when Grandma stopped walking and told us to stop.  “That’s ugly,” she said.

I remember those words.  “That’s ugly.”

I knew instantly that it wasn’t us she was calling ugly, but our behavior in that moment. How can anything that pulls apart, that severs relationships, that causes anger or distress be beautiful?

Last week, I told you my fears and offered some solutions, and many of you were kind and gracious. Some of your comments and private messages brought me to happy tears. Some of them caused me to reflect deeply. I couldn’t respond to all of you, to most of you, but please know I read your words. I thought about them. I cried, I laughed, I even rejoiced.

I want to thank you for listening. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for starting the hard work of building bridges.

To be honest, when I started to see how far the post was going, how many times it was shared, how many comments were piling up, part of me wanted to reclaim my anonymity, delete my blog and keep living my quiet life. It was a lot of response to a girl just sharing her feelings and perspective from a mostly quiet town in the midwest. I felt worried that I wasn’t ready to answer your questions. I felt worried that I wasn’t prepared to offer solutions. I just kept thinking: This is going farther than I anticipated. I am not ready for this.

You see, I am not an expert. I am not THE black voice. I just have MY voice.  I can just tell my story. I don’t know why it’s so hard to see eye to eye on what is to me a very critical issue. I don’t have answers for all of the other problems you brought up. I just wanted to be seen. I just wanted to be heard. I just wanted you to offer on social media the same compassion I know you would offer my family and I to our faces.

Because what I’ve learned in my life is this: anything- anything- that divides, or tears down, that severs relationships or hinders relationships from growing, is “ugly”. The shootings of these unarmed people is ugly. The rude, hateful comments, some from the church, dehumanizing these people and justifying their deaths, are ugly, too, regardless of how you feel about the cause or about other related or unrelated problems.

When I read some of those comments, I started feeling that pulling, that dividing, that tension. This is Ugly. My Grandma Said it’s Ugly.

But then…then I wrote some words last week and very shortly was overwhelmed by comments from people, from many of you, who cared. So many of you had compassionate, heart felt, encouraging, honest, BEAUTIFUL words. And when we went to church Sunday morning, we were greeted with love as we always are but people also said, “I read your post. I care about your words and I care about you.” At the end of service, my husband and kids were eventually waiting in the van for me to come out because so many wanted to stop and say, “We see you. We care.”

BEAUTIFUL. 

Do you know what happens when we start a conversation built on a foundation of compassion? When you, as a part of the body of Christ, adopt a permanent stature of empathy and caring, even for those who are nothing like you, even for those you can’t relate to and don’t understand, even for those you actually disagree with? Well, then you start to make something beautiful.  In this case: a beautiful bridge.

If you want to build a bridge, you must first acknowledge the divide. You have to see the gap in order to fill it. Thank you for being willing to do both.

We see things differently. We feel things differently. That’s the divide. We are saved by grace and forgiven and loved. There’s the bridge. Any work that tears down this bridge is UGLY. By the grace of God, let’s make something beautiful.

xoxo Latrice

P.S.  For those of you who wanted a few more practical steps, stay tuned into my Facebook page later this week for a video invitation just for you!

 

 

 

 

 

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To All my White Christian Friends Regarding Recent Events

(So I’ve been working on a new blog! This is not what I had planned for a first post, but here we are anyway. Also ignore the social media links. I don’t know how to make them go away.)

Today I posted this picture of my family and I from a gathering with our home school co-op friends on FB. It received many likes and even a comment about our great family, and there was much love and support.

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photo credit Sarah Hartman

Then, I saw a video a friend had posted of the latest police shooting and killing of an unarmed black man. My friend who posted this video is black. Many of the people who commented were white.

Friends- I’m worried about the comments that I read. I’m worried about how non people of color are responding to these shootings. I’m worried about the excuses people are making for these officers. I’m worried about the obvious lack of sympathy for these people and their families and for the black community that is SUFFERING.

WE ARE SUFFERING.

WE HAVE BEEN SUFFERING.

I’m worried about why this suffering is being diminished.
I’m worried about why so many Christian people don’t feel the need to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, except ignore it or worse- rationalize it.

So I want to try something here. Look at the picture of my family again. Look at my boys. Some of you have high-fived these kids on the way into church service. You’ve given them a push on the swing at a play date. You’ve served them cake at your child’s birthday party. Now, look at my husband. You’ve handed him the communion plate, tossed a football with him at a picnic. You’ve prayed for him in connect group. Are you looking at the picture? Now, I have some questions for you:

What if my husband was the one who had just been shot and killed by the police? Unarmed, dying needlessly in the street? What would you tell me to my face? Would you say, “Look, being a police officer is a hard job. There are lots of good cops out there. I have cops in my family and I feel like you aren’t respecting their job. It’s a sad thing about your husband, but you can’t blame the police for this”?

Would you say, “The police told him to keep his hands down and he didn’t. He didn’t follow the rules so he got what was coming to him. You have to follow rules- simple as that”?

Would you look me in the eye and say those things? I read those comments today.

What if it was one of my boys sitting on a park bench, holding an air soft gun, who had been gunned down by police who never even gave him the option to drop the “weapon”?

Would you say, ” Well, your son looked older than he was and how are the police really supposed to know it was a fake gun, so it was just a sad accident”?

Would you tell me, “I’m sorry you’re so sad about your son, but really, ALL lives matter, not just your son’s life. We need to be focusing on everyone, not just singling him out”?

Would you tell me, “Your son was dressed like a ‘thug’. He looked like he was up to no good. If he hadn’t been dressed like that he wouldn’t have been shot”?

I’ve read those comments this year.

Would you tell me those things if it were our family being judged and criticized and actually BLAMED after a death like this? Would you come to the funeral and offer some of those words for “comfort”?

I’m sure the answer is no. If it were our family I know that your hearts would be broken. I know that you would be devastated. I know you’d be sending cards and messages and casseroles. That you’d be hugging and praying and asking God for comfort and healing and change.

Friends, this the response WE need from you every time there is racial injustice because, the thing is, every time this happens, it feels like it could have been my family. It could have been my husband reading a book in his car. It could have been my son sitting on a park bench. It could have been my cousins in a routine traffic stop. It could have been my brother in law outside of a convenience store.

I know it’s uncomfortable for me to talk about this, but I can’t be silent about these things anymore because being silent could mean no change and there has to be change. For the sake of my husband and children and family members. And you know what? For the sake of yours, too.

So, please don’t tell me “All Lives Matter”, please don’t tell me “It’s sad, but…”. Just tell me you care.

Tell me you don’t understand what it’s like to be black. Tell me you don’t understand what it’s like to fear the things I fear. Tell me you don’t have all the answers but you want to know more, you want to help, you want to see change. Don’t argue with me about why I’m hurting. Don’t argue with me about why I’m angry. Don’t try to be right. And please don’t try to make me responsible for why these things are happening.

And after all that, maybe ask to meet me for coffee and listen to my stories and my family’s stories.

Maybe try to hear me. Try to hear us. And pray.

Listen.
Pray.
Repeat.

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