Thursday, January 12, 2017

white mama at the black barbershop...


 We were LONG overdue for a cut, y'all.

Like, I tend to push times in between cuts anyways, but this time we were WAAAY overdue.

That's partly because the woman who'd been cutting Jameson's hair suddenly and unexpectedly lost her husband (so, so sad- my heart goes out to her), so I've just been a little lost about getting into a new barber.

But it was time.  The hair was not getting any more manageable or detangling on its own...




 I expected the usual... he'd only comply if he sat in my lap to get the haircut.  He'd fuss and push the clippers away.

But no.

Not a whimper.

He sat in his chair and "took it like a man"- ha!

(Caroline and I were beaming with pride in the background, though alot more hair came off than I expected...eek!  That's okay, it's just hair.  Thankfully, his will grow back.)

I asked him later why he didn't fuss at the barbershop like he usually does.  "Mom, I like the boys there."

Well, okay.  A barbershop it is then.



Being a white mama in the black barbershop used to come with some discomfort.  I wasn't used to settings where I was the minority.  But now, this white mama doesn't feel so lily white, and I honestly cherish the moments when my son can be in the majority, as it gives me a small idea of what he experiences every day.

When your child is a different ethnicity from their family, you're (hopefully) looking for opportunities for them to connect with others that look like them.

Jameson knows he's got brown skin, and he notices when people or characters in books look like him. (which is sad how difficult that can be... )  I want him to know who he is and where he comes from.  I don't want my son to grow to be a white man in a black man's body.  I want him to know how to navigate both white and black culture when he's grown.  And since he's naturally going to have alot of white culture being in our family, I've got to be more intentional in bringing in the black culture.

I hear other parents touting themselves on the fact that their children "don't see color," and I wonder, what's so wrong with seeing color?

"Mom, I LOVE the barbershop."
Is there something inherently wrong or shameful about color that we wouldn't want our children to see it?

I want my kids to see color.  I want them to see and recognize and talk with me about the ways God created people in all different countries and cultures in His image.  It's good.  It's beautiful.

Every culture has negative aspects and false stereotypes.  Likewise, every culture displays beauty and God's glory as well.  How is my son's culture more often portrayed?

In my ignorance, I often wondered why there were black churches or black colleges or black barbershops or a black history month or black anything... and yet now, it's all so, so clear.

This mama's heart can only take so much, y'all.  There's so much I could say.  There's so much pain and so much that needs to change in regards to racial reconciliation.

Lord, change our hearts and bring reconciliation to our brokenness.  Help us to listen without getting defensive.  Help us to be patient with those who don't see what we see.  Help us to assess what is true, help us to admit our own fears and ignorance.  Help us to see our sin and our own contributions to racism, whether personally or systemically.  Help us to enter into real relationships with those who are different from us, not in order to rescue them, but in order to learn from them.  Give us a vision of your Kingdom... every tribe and every tongue praising their Creator together... and help us to love Your Kingdom more than our own culture or our own country.  Help us to care not only about what may benefit us, but what might bring shalom for those you loved... the poor, the needy, the broken, and the outcasts.  Amen. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

i want to see my birthmommy...

As they grow, I'm watching my kids process their adoptions.

Like everything else in life, Marc and I don't shy away from having real, honest conversation about various topics with our kids.  (Of course, keeping it age-appropriate.)   Sometimes we initiate the conversations, but most of the time they just sort of happen at the most unplanned times.

Like yesterday.

The kids and I were riding in the car across town, and Caroline says, "I wonder if my birthmommy Megan will send me a Christmas gift?"  

To which Jameson, in typical little brother, copy-cat fashion says, "I wonder if my birthmommy L will send me a Christmas gift?"

Then Caroline, in her typical big sister, type A personality quickly jumps in to factually correct Jameson's statement... "NO, Jameson, birthmommy L will not send you a Christmas present.  But maybe your godparents will!"

I felt a twinge of pain for Jameson as Caroline's words left her mouth.  It was not the thing to say, but it was true.  His birthmommy won't be sending him a present.  

Caroline's birthmommy and Mommy
While Caroline enjoys the luxury of having an open adoption with her birthfamily (we call, text, email, visit like extended family), Jameson's birthparents have chosen a mediated adoption, where all correspondence like pictures and updates go through the adoption agency.  We don't have their address, they don't have ours.

"Who are my godparents?" Jameson asked.

"Aunt Tiffany and Uncle Ebed, silly!" Caroline retorted.   (Tiffany is my school-age friend that agreed to be a "godparent" to Jameson in the absence of him having ongoing contact with a birthfamily.)

Aunt Tiffany and Uncle Ebed
Deciding to enter into this escalating conversation with a gentler tone, I explained, "Do you remember, Jameson?  We called Aunt Tiffany when that little girl made fun of your dark skin.  Remember that?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Aunt Tiffany and Uncle Ebed know ALOT about having dark skin, so anytime you have a question or need to talk about something, we can call them!  Mommy and Daddy know a little bit about it, too."

"No you don't," he said teasingly with a smile from the backseat.  

We all giggled.

"Well, I have a question," Jameson said, and I held my breath in anticipation at what he might say next.

"Why do cars have wheels?"      (HA HA HA HA HA HA!)

So we took a small rabbit trail for a minute to discuss wheels, of all things.  And then Jameson said, "I want to see my birthmommy L.  Can we just text her?  What's her address?"

My heart began sinking. "We don't have her phone number and we don't have her address.  If we want to send her some pictures or write her a letter, we can send it to the adoption agency and they'll send it to her!"  I felt a little like a used car salesman in the moment, like I was trying to make something which is not okay somehow feel okay.

To a four year old, though, it seemed to work.  He wasn't upset, just innocently curious.

"Everyone's adoption is different," I told the kids.  "There are actually 3 kinds of adoptions.  The first is OPEN adoption.  That's what Caroline has with her birthmommy Megan.  And when your adoption is open, you can text or call, you know each other's address, and you can visit them like we visit birthmommy Megan when we go to Texas.

The second kind of adoption is called a semi-open, or a MEDIATED adoption, and that's what you have, Jameson.  That's where you don't know your birthmommy's phone number or her address, and she doesn't know ours, but you can still get in touch with each other through the adoption agency.  We were so lucky to get to meet your birthmommy once when you were 1 month old.

Meeting birthmommy L
The third kind of adoption is called a CLOSED adoption.  That's where you don't know who your birthmommy is at all.  It's like a secret."

"That's sad," Caroline said.  

"Well, I want to see my birthmommy again," Jameson repeated.

"I know, I want to see her, too, son."   

My heart yearns for this for Jameson.  "Maybe we will soon!  Would you like to write to her?  What do you want to say to her?"

He started dictating his letter.  "I'd say, 'Dear Mommy L, We have a brick house and a black car... and a white car.  I love you.  Jameson.'"

(Sigh.  Isn't that precious?)

"That's very nice," I told him. "She would love to know that."

Caroline's card to birthmommy L
I could feel a quiet, longing in my son's silence in that moment.  My eyes filled up with tears and I reflected upon my own life.

"You know, Jameson, sometimes when there's someone in our life we really want to see and can't, God actually gives us other people who can fill in those gaps.  He's given you Mommy, Daddy, and Caroline.  He's given you Aunt Tiffany and Uncle Ebed and so many other people who love you."

My heart could finish the next statement, though... But I want to see my own mommy.

(Okay, I know, I know.  I'm Jameson's mommy, and he knows it, too.  Who's Jameson's and Caroline's real mom?  ME.  I got that.  He's got that.  She's got that.  We're good.  While the mommy/birthmommy thing may feel confusing to others, around here it is just called "normal"!  ha!)

Adoption isn't a "once and done" event like we'd like to think. 

It's not like once a child is placed into a family, birthparents go away and are never thought of again, whether your adoption is open or closed.  

Caroline's birthfamily
Birthparents play a valuable role in their children.  Their DNA is in my family.  For my children to know a birthparent is to know and understand themselves better.  For Marc and I to know our children's birthfamily is to know our children better.  It is such a gift.  

I just want the same for my son someday.

"Mommy, I want Birthmommy L to have a open adoption," Jameson stated matter-of-factly.

At this point, I was fighting back the tears, for I was feeling my son's loss that he has yet to fully understand.

"Me, too.  We can pray for that."

"Now?  Can we pray for that now?" his little voice asked.

"Sure we can." 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

changed and changing...


 I've changed.

And I'm changing.

Life has its way of doing that.

(God does, too.)










I'm not who I used to be.

(And I'm loving it.)

Our family isn't who we used to be.

(And we're loving it.)

Sometimes I wish it didn't feel so isolating and costly
to be different.

But I'm finding there are people
that welcome with open arms
rather than furrowed brows,
and I have found more freedom
to find those
who offer support and love.
 I'm leaving 2016 bruised by its afflictions.









But I'm also leaving it more sure of who I am.


I'm leaving it more sure of who we are.

And I'm leaving it more sure of what we need.


We don't yet have the things we need.

For now, that's okay.

I know they're out there somewhere.

I'll keep looking.






I don't know the where, how, and when.
But now I know the what and why.

God has us on a journey.










"I may not know the way I go, but oh, I know my Guide."     -His Love Can Never Fail (hymn)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

snippets...

woke up to this scene one morning
2016 has brought both sorrow and joy into our lives.

Sorrow that we're still trying to work through.  Joy that we're fighting to hold onto.

(All while knowing that at the same time, we're living some of the best days of our lives, too.)

So if this post seems disjointed, it's because our life right now is, too.
Highs and lows.   From one thing to the next.

In the course of a day, I wear so many different hats: mom, RUF wife, worship director, home designer, hired musician, landlord, leader of a band, cook, maid, wife, etc.  I'm doing too much, but I also kinda love it, too...  (Mid life crisis?)

Caroline and Jameson are hands down THE joy of our life.

Their love for one another is so apparent one minute, but like any siblings, can grow oh-so-sour the next.

Lots of tattling.  Lots of screaming.  It feels like we'll never get out of the door when we need to leave the house.  I'm a constant record loop of "use your words" and "stop provoking him."

saw this happening around the corner
There are lots and lots of opportunities for sanctification and reconciliation in our home each. and. every. day.

And to catch them doing the tough work of apologies and forgiveness on their own.... oh, be still my mama's heart.
She fell in love and paid for Maeva herself.
Caroline is in love with American Girl Dolls (or 18" dolls of any kind, really!), singing, piano, writing stories and journaling.  She loves learning about anything and everything, and she's particularly obsessed at the moment with doing handstands and splits.  (Gymnastics, here we come!)  She loves Jesus and truly has an understanding of her sin at times that gives me assurance that Jesus is at work in her little heart.


Learning how to do hair!
Academics continue to come very easy for her.  But we've entered into the school-age girl drama with some friendships this year, (3rd grade) and much of our focus has become helping Caroline to navigate the world of relationships.

Sometimes I already feel like I'm dealing with a pre-teen, y'all.  It's hard to keep my cool when she's learned all the buttons to push.  But as hard as the days can be, at bedtime when I'm singing to her and massaging her back, the last thing I often hear before she drifts off to sleep is "You're the best mama.  I love you so much."  

Sigh.

Jameson continues to amaze me.  As rambunctious as he typically is (he is ALL BOY!), he's also the most tender hearted, empathetic little boy.  If one of us cries, he's crying with us, rubbing our back and telling us it's going to be okay.  If he feels like we've spoken harshly to Caroline, he charges at us ready to "defend her honor."  (funny/not funny)  

He's got a sharp imagination, and right now, he only thinks about Star Wars.   









Next year he'll officially go to preschool, but this year he's continued to go to Mrs. Maria's house one day a week.  And it's the highlight of his week.  ("Mom, is today Tuesday??")  
trying the mini pumpkin pies he & Mrs. Maria made together
Mrs. Maria does a preschool curriculum with him, and she's taught him his letters, numbers, catechism questions, scissor skills, Bible memory, gross motor skills, manners and so much more.  He can now write his name and read a few words thanks to Mrs. Maria.  

Jameson sometimes calls her "Grandma Lynchburg" because she's the closest thing we have to family here and I'm so, so grateful for how she pours into my children. 


Marc preaching at RUF large group downtown
It's been a difficult semester of RUF for us.  That's hard to admit after 16 years of campus ministry with RUF.   There's been some really outstanding highlights for us like gaining an incredible female intern, Audrey, and moving to our new downtown location, which has built momentum for students from all the city's colleges to be involved.

But this semester proved to be tough between things like losing our male intern, Taylor (who took a leave of absence to go compete as a singer on a new reality television show in Nashville), and trying to minister to our students at Liberty University throughout all the stress of the election season.  My grandfather passed away in October.

(It was at my grandpa's funeral we discovered alopecia was in our extended family!) 

Marc visiting his dad on Thanksgiving
It was Marc's first Thanksgiving without his dad.  We are still very much grieving his passing.


Jameson & cousin Julius
Time with the cousins is always sweet for our kids.  Thanksgiving was no exception.
Caroline and her cousins have formed a singing group called "The Three Musketeers" and each time they're together, they perform a show for the family.  Sweet, sweet times.
"The Three Musketeers"







On Thanksgiving, we drove from visiting Marc's family to visit some of my family who flew into Raleigh to see my dad's extended family.

Just this week, Taylor (the intern who was competing in the tv show) completely surprised us by coming back to Lynchburg for a short visit before the holidays.  I seriously cried when I walked into my living room and he was sitting on my couch.  Had.No.Idea.


Live on the radio!
It was perfect timing because our band was preparing a Christmas show, and with him back, it meant we could rock out on alot of our fun old tunes again!  We were invited to go on the radio the next morning to preview our upcoming gig.

(By the way, if you're interested in following our band, you can check us out on facebook or instagram: Cabell St Collective)
Cabell St Christmas show
The show was so, so fun having Taylor back!  Though I haven't had time to blog much about it, starting this band has probably been THE highlight of 2016 for me, next to purchasing the River House.  (between those two projects and raising kids and being in ministry, there's been no time to blog!)

We love our manager, Judy!

Cabell St Collective

Aaaand that's it for now.  I told you this post would be disjointed!  

Just snippets of life, simultaneously full of joy and sorrow.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

river house #11... port-a-potties and transracial parenting...

to the River House!
Hello, old friends.  It's been too long, my apologies.

Care to come see the River House?  Hop on your new scooter because it's only a block away from our house.

You remember we've done the basement,
and then we added on...

...well, now we've got a new permit to begin work on the main house!  Woohoo!  Let's rock and roll.

You know it is serious business when the port-a-potty arrives for the contractors.  Let's get this thing rolling!  (haha, which is really a joke, because this stuff goes soooooooo sloooooooooww)

 First up, FRAMING and WINDOWS...


New kitchen window on the left.  That's the stairway addition on the right.

Current view of the kitchen.  Isn't it dreamy?  :)

 I'd say we've gotten ourselves into quite a project...
 But at least we can now safely get up into the attic.  I mean, first things first.
It's crazy to see your design come into real life.  Like, it's one thing to enter it in on my computer software and configure where walls will go on a screen, but it's a whole different ballgame to see the actual WALLS!
Adding in closets... it's crazy to think old homes didn't have them...

Jameson watching Mr. Larry cut out a window in his future room.
One of the most nerve-wracking things for me has been windows.  Half of the house (3 stories) was an addition from the original house, but they quit construction before adding windows.

Adding windows has been both a blessing and a curse...

A) I get to choose where I want windows and what size they should be.
B)  I have to figure out where I want windows and what size they should be.

This is where I'm really afraid I'm gonna screw it up, y'all.  The Great Room WITH THE VIEW OF THE JAMES RIVER.  This is the selling point of the house.  See how there's no windows yet?  Yikes!

I've gone back and forth in my mind with a few different designs... do I put the fireplace centered on the wall with huge windows on either side?  Or put the fireplace on the side wall with built-ins and just go for it with a wall of windows?

computer sketch of Great Room design


And at least for now, I'm thinking we'll go with the latter option.  HELLO VIEW.  I cannot WAIT to see it for the first time in that room.   Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!

return air unit going in under the staircase

In addition to framing, we're almost complete with HVAC (heating and air conditioning)!  Which is super expensive and putting us ever more into debt, but once the electrician comes and hooks it all up, working on the house in the winter won't be quite so frigid.

Sweet and sassy girl.  As smart and independent as you'll ever find.

My cute boy.  He's 4 now.  (Can time just slow down, please.)

On the way home the other day, I heard Jameson mumbling something to himself in the backseat.  "I like me just the way I am," he said, causing my ears to perk up.

"What's that, baby?" I asked, and then he explained.

A little girl had teased him about the color on his hand and feet being much lighter on one side than the other.   He had been consoling himself in the backseat as he studied his hands.

I know the girl didn't mean harm.  
I know she was only pointing out something she saw as different.  Kids do that.
She didn't know a thing about racism or racial microaggressions and stereotypes, or how her innocent little comments could plant seeds of racial inferiority into my son's heart this young.  
She didn't know.   

(Though perhaps if this little girl had more diverse friendships and relationships in her life, my son and his skin coloring wouldn't likely seem so "other" to her.)  

It's one thing for Jameson to hear his lily white mama tell him "you're perfect just the way you are."  "Mama, do your hands have a light side and a dark side?" he asked.  
It kinda broke my heart to show him my hand, evenly peachy pale on both sides.  

This is where transracial adoption is hard.  Because my son doesn't share my culture, or my color, I can be empathetic all day long about his experiences as a minority, but ultimately, I can't understand fully because I've never had to do it. 

That's when I desperately need the help of my brown-skinned brothers and sisters.  I can't do this transracial parenting thing without them.  So I called "Aunt Tiffany," my long-time childhood friend and Jameson's godmother and asked her if she'd be willing to talk to him on the phone.  

I teared up listening to Aunt Tiffany asking my son to repeat back the word "melanin" to her, teaching him why we need it.  

We.

That's what my son needs to feel and know.  It's not just him.  He has a community of WE.

We made it back to the River House and told Mr. Larry, our contractor, about the little girl's comments.  Instantly, he pulled his sock off in solidarity to show Jameson that he, too, had a lighter colored foot on one side.


As a mom, it's humbling to know that I can't meet all of my kids' needs.  
But it's hands down amazing to watch my dear brothers and sisters step in to meet some of them for me.