Monday, May 29, 2017

white mama at the black barbershop: more than hair...

Okay, I'm super embarrassed to show y'all this first picture of my son's hair.

Life has obviously been a little crazy between selling our house and working on the River House, (more on that in a future post!) so as you can see, Jameson's hair has not been our first priority.

I was almost too mortified to take him in ANYwhere, and I really shouldn't have taken him in without washing his hair at home first to help loosen his incredibly tight curls for picking out.

So the barber,
loving his first shampoo at the barber shop
whom we love and have seen before, started working through Jameson's hair with the pick, and I could see Jameson doing everything in his power to hold back the tears.  (As I internally beat myself up...)

At that point, the barber took him for his first shampoo.  (I guess he realized it was a lost cause to get that pick through the boy's head.  Smart man.)
After the shampoo came the buzzers.  (or are they called the clippers? I don't even know...)  And at the back of Jameson's head are the tightest little curls that whatever-it's-called yanks and pulls when the hair gets long.

Jameson couldn't hold it in anymore.  He bowed his head and let the tears flow.  My poor guy.

The barber ran to the back room and rushed back with a chocolate bar for both of my kids.  #barberforthewin

Tear-stained Jameson devoured the bar, and the barber and I continued chit-chatting.  Occasionally he would direct a boisterous question to Jameson, and Jameson (being a shy version of himself) would usually just answer with a soft, enunciated "yes."

Then the barber turned to me each time and imitated Jameson's little voice saying "yes" and laughed to himself.  He said he couldn't believe how "polite" Jameson spoke.

I laughed.  Jameson didn't exactly know how to get his barbershop talk on.

And then that big ol' wave of white-mama-of-a-black-son insecurity hit me, for more than just hair.

My son is going to be teased for how he speaks.  He'll likely be teased for a myriad of things just because he lives with a white family.  He'll have to suffer the consequences for his deficiencies in black culture because of me.

I left that barbershop painfully aware of my whiteness, and of my son's lack of blackness, if that makes any sense.  

I can give my son so much-- food, clothing, a loving home, a family that's crazy about him, lightsabers galore, and even a good haircut-- but there's a big piece missing in every adoptee's life.  
(Especially in a transracial adoptee.)

I can't give Jameson the connection to his birth family.  And I can't give him his racial and ethnic heritage.  

That may not sound like a big deal to some, but Jameson comes from a very strong and beautiful cultural heritage.  Marc and I are always seeking for ways to bring more of it into our life, both for our sake and for his.

Since we have serious cultural limitations, we are praying that some of our dark-skinned brothers might take him under their wing.  I am praying for more racial representation for him in the church.   I want him to have real-life role models that can talk to him about what it means to be black in America.  That may not be something that he feels he needs now, but it's something he'll know he missed out on later. 

You guys, transracial adoption is about SO much more than learning to do hair.  

It's committing to a journey that will literally lead you places you never knew you'd go.  

It's coming to grips with your own insecurities and incapabilities and mourning losses your child doesn't even yet know he's facing.  

It's being willing to give up your comfort and even your people for the benefit of your child.  

It's a path that isn't for everyone.  

It's the most challenging (and simultaneously the most rewarding) thing I've ever done.  And I'm only 4 years in. 

May God give this little white mama the grace to know how to do it well.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

the river house #14: selling, staging and sexism...

We are up to our necks in houses, houses, HOUSES!  

Y'all, it's crazy.  It's the hot time of the market, so we need to get our current house up for sale.  

But the only problem is, what if it sells?!

Because if it does, then this is what I currently have.  

(and if you can't tell, that's not exactly live-able)

We are STILL insulating and fixing all the other thousand little things that need doing in order to get drywall.  

BEFORE: replacing the rotted wood on the back porch
AFTER: the porch is painted and the yard is landscaped
But first, in order to get listed on the market, we've had to switch our energies into our current house.

 I planted flowers for that extra pop of curb appeal.
Speaking of curb appeal, each year the city's Easter festival is in our neighborhood, and literally thousands of cars drive by our house that day, so it was important for us to be looking spiffy as we announced our house was coming for sale soon!

So in a typical day, I literally go from exterior work... interior decluttering...

 hanging insulation at the River house...

It's too much, you guys.

Moving is hard enough.

But renovating one house while staging and selling (and ultimately packing up) another is too much.

And to make matters worse, we fired our contractor.

(What?!?  I know.)

Yeah, we're now on our own with no help.  Just when we probably need it the most.

I could literally write an entire blog post about the interchange the morning I fired him.  It was so, so bad.  It was just me and him, but thankfully our intern, Audrey, heard part of it word-for-word and was there for me after it was all said and done.

What started as me calmly expressing some concerns about the hours that he was reporting quickly (so QUICKLY!) escalated into him using loud, threatening language.  I was caught in a situation where I was trying to keep things professional, and it was like I was talking again to my explosive young children who often don't have the capability to use calm words.  Except this was an adult.

When his buddies drove up on the street, he stormed out to talk to them, which provided me the opportunity to attempt to stop physically shaking.  But when I heard his inappropriate comments to his buddies about us, and then about ME BEING A WOMAN, that crossed a line.

So when he walked back in to speak to me again, I calmly confronted his choice of words about me as a woman.  And his sexist response only dug his grave deeper. ("Oh," he said as he cocked his head to the side and wriggled his fingers in my face, "that's because you women have FEELINGS.")  I was still trying to logically figure out some of his pricing discrepancies in order to resolve the situation, but it was like an animal who had been backed into a corner.  He was flipping out, threatening to quit, attacking me.  It was time for him to pack up.

What in the world, y'all?  How does he think he can treat someone that way?  Um, no.

So it's a new day.

We'll figure it out.

It's nice that my house is pretty stinkin' clean as we go on the market Monday.

But keeping it that way with my two children is going to drive us ALL crazy.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 23, 2017


I'm standing on the precipice of "Old Life."  (if you didn't catch the post on "old life/new life," read here.)

Most things still aren't yet settled into place, but they're coming.

Changes are around the corner.

Our house goes on the market next week.  (if that's not stressful...)

We received the letter in the mail that Caroline did NOT win the lottery system to get into the small public school where we felt God's leading.  God, what are You doing?  So we're on a waiting list and hoping to hear something as soon as this week.  We continue walking by faith through this wilderness-of-sorts.

Other steps towards "new life" are approaching that I'm not able to share publicly just yet.

But as I'm catching glimpses of "new life" on the horizon, I'm finding myself an emotional wreck about stepping away from "old life."

It's like I'm moving within my own city to another world.  And like any move, there are gains but there are losses.

Right now, I'm mourning the losses.  I am crying at the drop of a hat as things hit me.  There are people and things about "old life" that I just want to bottle up and take with me into "new life."  Thankfully, I'll still be in the same town and can see them, but I'm not naive- with change, it won't be the same.

On the other hand, I'm afraid that my dream of "new life" isn't going to live up to my hopeful expectations.  (nothing ever does!)  And I'm afraid I'll look back and kick myself for leaving "old life."

Although my head knows it's the right direction for our family.  Though we don't know the destination, I know it's the direction God has clearly been guiding us.

But knowing something doesn't take away the emotions I'm feeling on this precipice.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

the river house #13: all things unseen...

It's Springtime at the River House!

A sweet woman at church came months ago to plant some bulbs in the backyard.  One day we'll have nothing else going on and can tend to the yard...

My amazing handyman hubby
But right now, we're tending to all things unseen.

Heating and air conditioning.

Oh framing.  I think we've been framing for over 6 months now...

There's just a TON of work to be done
before any walls go up.
Work that you take for granted in a finished house
when you can flush a toilet
or turn on a light switch
or not have your ceiling cave in on you.
(that's always a nice feature)

It's work that's hidden behind your walls,
and will remain unseen.

But boy, if it's wrong, you'll know it.

So it probably doesn't look like too much has changed.

(I have to tell myself as I watch all the money drain out of my bank account that it has.)

framing and more framing

We got our fridge!

We had the wall custom built to recess the fridge to be in line with the countertops (you can see the green tape line on the floor).  This will save us space, we didn't have to spend a billion dollars to get a countertop depth fridge, and we still have all the room of a standard-sized fridge.

Here's a sneak peek at the cabinet layout of the kitchen.  (minus the cool custom hood I'm going to build above the stove)

I can't wait to see this view in REAL LIFE.

And speaking of views, I can't wait to see THIS view of the river as I'm soaking in my jetted tub.  (which we found new off of craigslist- yay!)
Restored original brick fireplace in front room
The exciting news is we have now passed the BIG inspection on all things unseen (HVAC, plumbing, framing, and electrical), and it's on to insulation!  (also unseen, but also very important!)

Which sounds great and exciting, until you have to go and pick up a gazillion bags of the stuff... 

I seriously hit my low at Lowe's.  Now we call it "Slowe's."  I used to like the place.  But what I thought would be a 30 minute errand turned into a 3 HOUR+ ordeal just to pick up an online order because they couldn't figure out their new system and slipped up with a TON of miscommunication. I lost all patience at the very end when the security guard wouldn't let us leave with all of the insulation and my son was screaming bloody murder because he was hungry and tired because WE DIDN'T HAVE A PRINTED TICKET (that the front desk couldn't print for us, of course, because they couldn't figure out their new system).  

Uggghhhh.... you get the picture, right?  Misery. 

beginning insulation
 Nevertheless, now we have insulation, and we're doing it ourselves to save a few thousand bucks.

 Here you see Marc joyfully demonstrating the insulation process.

It's pretty tedious with all of the cuts, but here's what a finished wall looks like.

And once we finish and pass inspection for insulation, guess what's next?

Drywall, baby!

So if anyone wants to come over and learn the skill of insulating, you are more than welcome!!

to be continued...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

the big things...

I feel like I'm working on "big things" right now-- rehabbing the River House, working to be a catalyst for a multiethnic church plant downtown, starting a "Be the Bridge to Racial Unity" discussion group, performing across the city with our band-- "big things" that change our city and our world.

I'm so passionate about the things I'm doing in the city, and I love what I'm doing.  More on that another time.

But there's really only TWO "big things" in my life.


And him.

 So here's what's big around here...

first day of preschool
My baby boy has now started preschool!

We were going to begin next fall, but the preschool we chose thought it best that Jameson started getting used to the routine of school now with a month left to go in the school year.

first day!

And he is just eating it UP.  He LOVES his school.  In the first few days, he's already made two friends that he talks about all the time.  I can tell he is being so stimulated educationally, and it's exciting to see him grow and mature into this phase of life.  The preschool director told me he's so pleasant and super smart.
But as you know, preschool is exhausting work.

Especially when you've got to get home to have lightsaber battles.

I love these two!
Caroline is having an amazing school year in 3rd grade.  She continues to be at the top of her class academically though we've now entered the point of girl drama with a few friends.  I guess that's just part of the growing process.

She's doing an after-school math club once a week, gymnastics once a week, and playing outside in the yard with neighborhood kids almost every other waking minute.  This is my social BUTTERFLY.

She just lost her 16th tooth. (she's counting)

And can you believe, the Tooth Fairy forgot to come the night she placed her tooth out and wrote a letter!  (#parenthoodfailure)

The next evening, Caroline came up to me, "Mom, I'm just gonna put this in your room so you won't forget again."

*SO* happy the recorders came home
 Another parenthood milestone was the day the school sent home the recorder last week and my ears went ouch!

But y'all know my Caroline.  She's an excellent musician.

So thankfully, it didn't take too long before all the ear-piercing shrieks turned into controlled, decipherable notes.


her first persuasive essay
And you know what? I'm not the only one thinking about "big things."

When other classmates were writing persuasive essays about "why we should have a class pet" or "why we should get an ice cream party," my sweet girl decided to write "Why We Should Help the Homeless."

I could not be a more proud mama.

I'll update you all on all the other stuff going on, but wanted you all to know about the truly BIG things in our life.

Monday, March 6, 2017

waiting is the hardest part...

The other day I decided to publicly share our journey and transition from old life into new life.  I shared how as a family, we generally now know what we need, but in practicality, we don't know what it's going to look like or what the path is to get there.

In some ways, it feels like I'm locked in one of those escape rooms.  You know what I'm talking about?  It's like, I know there's a way out of this old life, but it's as if there's a series of puzzles to solve or doors to unlock before we can figure out how to get through to the other side.  Nothing is "opening up" at this point.

I don't know what school either of my children will be attending next year, and that feels HUGE and overwhelming.

We've elected to take Caroline out of the private school she's attended since kindergarten in order to put her into a small, magnet public school that specializes in the performing arts, but it's an "invite" system, and I don't know when we'll find out if she'll get in.  So we wait.

I found a preschool I liked for Jameson, but of course, his classroom is already full for next year.  Thankfully the director is open to trying to work it out with us, but again, we're waiting to see if and how it can happen.

I don't know if or when we'll be selling our current house.  We're nowhere near ready to move to the River House (that feels like forever away...), but the house market will be heating up very soon, and the likelihood of us selling this house next fall or winter isn't high.  So that brings up more questions... what if we sell the house before we're able to move in to the River House?  If that's the case, where do we LIVE in the meantime?  And how can we get the River House completed sooner?

We're in the middle of a semester of ministry, so it's not like we have time to work on the house.  So we pay our contractor and wait as he works.

Our dream of a multi-ethnic church here in Lynchburg seems like a long way off.  We're doing all we can on many fronts to help find a church planter, but ultimately, there's a lot of waiting involved..

So naturally, what does anyone do when they're struggling with waiting?  I googled "how to wait" and found a silly wikipedia how-to article.  (Am I the only one who does this kind of stuff?)

But the article's suggestions actually weren't too bad.

1.  Occupy your time.
2. Don't try too hard.
3.  Wait with other people.

1.  Occupy your time.  Check.  No problem there.  Between two kids, a campus ministry, a historic house renovation, a worship directing job, a band, a racial reconciliation group, etc., I'd say there's no problem filling up my time.

2.  Don't try too hard.  Not really sure what this actually means.  Don't try too hard to wait?  Okay, sure.  I won't try too hard.   (???)

3.  Wait with other people.


In all of our uncertainty about what's next for us, I'm finding that it's life-giving just to bring others into the wait with us.

It's why I'm typing this blog now.

I need others to make this wait not feel so unbearable.  I need others to commit to pray for our family, that God would guide us in all of this crazy uncertainty of schooling, housing, and the need for a multi-ethnic community.

So much feels up in the air right now.

Tom Petty was right.  Waiting is the hardest part.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

old life, new life...

It's become apparent to Marc and I in recent months that we're in a transition phase in our journey right now.

(By the way, I'm so thankful that he and I are united in this.  I don't think I could stay sane right now if we weren't on the same page!)

Through a great deal of soul searching and some really helpful counseling, we've been able to understand ourselves and our family's needs and desires more clearly.

We've been through alot of change since moving to Lynchburg 8 years ago.

Who we used to be is not exactly the same as who we are now.   Life molds you and shapes you, you know?  Different experiences, different environments and different relationships bring new perspectives.

So we're finding ourselves to be a little caught between our old life and our new.

(I suppose I should probably clarify for those who we haven't seen in a long time, we haven't gone off the deep end in any way.  We're still very much the same Marc and Amy, ha ha!)

But we're Marc and Amy that God is leading on a journey into some new places that we've never ventured before.  We've realized we need some things to change (not just for the sake of change) in order for our family to thrive.  I run the gamut of emotions about this- everything from fear to sadness to excitement to follow where He's going to guide us.

The other day I was finding myself completely overwhelmed, crying to Marc on the couch about our situation.  As he listened to my fears, he picked up the nearest crayon and a paper and scribbled out this picture to help me see our situation:

"This is our old life, Amy.  And these were the things that our heart was attached to in that life.

We lived across town in a suburban, homogeneous neighborhood.
We had one child.
That child went to this school.
We went to this church.

And now, we are entering into a new life.

We live downtown in a very diverse neighborhood, both racially and economically.
We have two children, who both have different needs and challenges.
We don't think the old school will be the best fit for our family anymore.
We don't think our church will be the best fit for our family long-term.

And Amy, we're in a hard transition process of cutting those ties in the old life and replacing them to fit the new life.

First we adopted Jameson.
Then we moved downtown.
(And now we're working to move again to the River House, just a block away.)
We're looking to change schools next fall.
And we're dreaming of bringing a multi-ethnic PCA church plant to downtown Lynchburg.

Whew!  Same town, but a very different "new life."

Crown and Joy Presbyterian Church (Richmond, VA)
The elders at our church were so gracious to give me a month off of my job as worship director.  (I've led worship for 15 years now, so it's a welcome short break!)

And each Sunday, we've been visiting different PCA multi-ethnic churches in our region.  (Washington DC, Richmond, Charlotte, etc.)

Similar to our experience in St. Louis, these multi-ethnic churches have been so life-giving to us.  It just feels like it "fits" us on so many levels.  We love our current church dearly, but you guys, my son calls it the "white church."  He doesn't have a mirror there, someone that looks like him and knows his realities in life, someone that he could look up to and model after.  I love that there's a growing network of multi-ethnic churches in our denomination (as well as homogenous culture churches who are recognizing their unintentional biases and are working to transition towards becoming more diverse), and I've come to understand that in order for us to thrive, our family needs to have a supportive, diverse church body in our city.  

So we've begun that process!  We're praying for God to do this while we're active about doing it.  (I used to be apart of the "just wait on God" crowd as I sat around and waited for things to fall in my lap, but now I see the kingdom so differently... how does God work?  Through his people praying and being faithful and active to GO and do.)  

We're networking, we're making calls.  
We're praying.  We're building relationships.  
We're telling people and our presbytery about our hope for our city.  

(sorry I can't figure out how to rotate the photo)
I've also gathered some friends from different churches and different ethnicities around town and we've begun a small discussion group called "Be the Bridge to Racial Unity." (I posted the Week 2 questions above, but here's their website if any of you are interested.)  It's an easy 8 week curriculum for churches that we're using and meeting every other week.  

I just felt like we needed a place to begin these much-needed conversations in our city.  I'm learning what a loooong, slow road racial reconciliation is, but I've already seen small glimpses of God slowly opening eyes just as He did mine, and that is SO exciting.   

This group has been a safe place for people to share their hurtful experiences with race as well as a safe place for others to listen and ask questions in order to learn, too.  

I'm excited to see what God will do in and through this group, but for me personally, it's been another piece of the puzzle in the "new life."  

River House
I guess what I'm learning is that we are much like the River House right now.  
God has laid a great foundation and structure.  
He's given us a beautiful family.  
And He's continuing to work and "frame in" the places in our life He wants to restore.  

Just like the River House, I can acutely feel in my soul how we're in the process of taking the old life and rehabilitating it into a new one.  

He's working towards one day making it a beautiful finished product.  

We just can't see His plans.