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But It’s Just a (Racist) Joke, Right?

Did you see this video going around? This guy used to be an officer in Louisville… my city.  And he was still policing in a community in our area. People thought he was “a bit of a character.” He thought it was ok to encourage fellow officers to shoot Black people.

If you ever wonder why I talk about racism so much, this is an example. I’m raising Black children in a society where we never know when a “nice” person is actually wishing them dead.

And those “nice” people are around you too, so if you hear someone saying racist crap, check them. Correct them. Call them out. No matter how insignificant the comment may seem, it matters. Because my children’s lives matter.

Black lives matter.


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I Don’t Get My Way at Christmas

I think most of what makes it FEEL like Christmas is based on our childhood memories.

For me, I love a leisurely Christmas morning, with just Chris and the kids. That’s how we always did it growing up, because we lived in the same area as all of our extended family.

However, Chris and I haven’t lived near family in over 13 years. Christmas usually involves traveling.

This makes laid-back Christmas mornings almost impossible.

We have opened presents as a family on Christmas Eve and then headed to the airport. Some Christmas mornings, we’ve woken up in a hotel to a “complimentary” Christmas breakfast. There’s been times the kids opened stockings in the car. We’ve attended Christmas services at the grandparents’ church. One year, we ate Christmas dinner at Waffle House, because it was the only thing open on the way to family.

Every holiday is different. And rarely like Christmases I remember from childhood.

A few years ago, we didn’t travel anywhere for Christmas. I was thrilled. Finally, my nice, peaceful Christmas morning! On the correct date. Just the family.

Except, the kids weren’t impressed. “This is boring.” “I wish we’d gone to see family.” “There’s nothing to do.” “Why did we stay home?”

And I realized my “normal” Christmas wasn’t theirs. To my kids, Christmas is road trips and visiting grandparents in another state. It’s hotels and airports. Luggage and presents all jammed into the trunk. Exploring in the woods of Arkansas or playing in Wisconsin snow.

So now my Christmas expectations are a lot more flexible. We still set aside time for just our family. But it’s ok that we have to work it around the road trip.

It turns out, having a more open mind about what is a “real” Christmas is a good thing.

This year, our traveling took us through the city of an adoptive-mom-friend, so she and I were able to have coffee and chat in person, which was a huge treat. Next, we are headed to spend Christmas with Enoch’s birth family. And we will finish up our holiday trip at Chris’ parents’ house.

So, as much as I love my nostalgic holiday customs, I’m learning that beauty comes in opening up to new kinds of Christmas traditions too. Especially when I see my kids’ joy in making their own memories.

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Kneeling Means What, Now?

It’s odd to me that kneeling has been dubbed a sign of “disrespect.” As Christians, we associate kneeling with humility and supplication.

So the NFL players are using their posture to say, “Please, America, be who you said you are.”

As a country, we say we believe in “liberty and justice for all.” But when, time after time, the police who kill unarmed Black people walk free, we do not have justice for all.

(I’m not talking about the good police officers that you and I know, who are protecting and serving. I’m talking about cops like the one who said, “We’re going to kill this motherf****r, don’t you know it,” before he ended a Black man’s life.)

So when members of the NFL peacefully appeal to our country’s best ideals, let us join them in hope for America. We too can rise up as patriots and fight for our country to be what it’s always claimed it aspires to be… a place of liberty and justice for ALL.

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Racists. And Us.

Since the news of white supremacists openly marching in Charlottesville, my social media timelines have been filled with people decrying racism and white supremacy. I hope yours have been too.

But let us not only express our shock at the sins of others, but also check our own hearts. What racial stereotypes have we bought into? Who do we subconsciously view through a lens of disdain? Where have we failed to see people as being made in the image of God?

May our horror of racism cause us to work to uproot the subtle tendrils of racism in our own hearts. This is what will bring real change that lasts far beyond this brief news cycle.

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SheaMoisture and My White Privilege

As a white mom to a little Black girl, learning to care for her hair over the past couple years has been a big deal.

The Black natural hair world is really cool! There are countless bloggers and vloggers who teach hairstyles and share tips on the best products. Not only do they look at the science behind the ingredients, but also the ethical side, with a big emphasis on supporting Black owned businesses.

We had recently switched to SheaMoisture brand at the advice of friends and Phoebe’s hair really liked it. I was thrilled, because the product had a lot going for it. The company is partially Black owned, uses natural ingredients, and is easy to find in any store. It seemed like our hair routine was set for awhile.

And then SheaMoisture released their latest commercial:

My Black friends were offended. The people in Black haircare groups were offended. Black Twitter was offended.

And they had good reason to be. The ad for a company that has been supported and promoted by Black women for years, put a heavy focus on white women (who already have a million products marketed to them). And it made white women’s dislike of their own hair comparable to how Black women’s hair is systemically shamed in our culture. (I mean, Black people can legally be denied a job for wearing a standard Black hairstyle… but tell me again how you don’t like your hair color.)

I listened to Black women express pain over being brushed aside. I heard them vow to never again buy from a company that was so quick to sell out their loyal customer base for a dollar. And I agreed with them.

But I had finally found something that worked on my daughters hair…

I 100% knew the commercial threw Black women under the bus, but I sat there rationalizing why I could still buy their product:

“I don’t know what to use instead. I can’t spend a fortune trying other products. Phoebe’s hair health is more important. When she’s older, she can decide what products to buy. SheaMoisture is so accessible.”

Guys, I was literally saying, “I can put my own convenience over the concerns of Black women who are being marginalized, because this doesn’t directly affect me.”

I know better. But this is what a lifetime of white privilege teaches us. And it takes a lot of deliberate soul searching to unravel the layers.

So this isn’t really about a haircare product. It’s about my reluctance to be inconvenienced in order to stand with those that our society typically ignores. If I can’t sacrifice my comfort in something as simple as not buying a product that bypassed Black women (especially when I’m raising a Black woman in my own home), how do I ever expect to speak up when I see other forms of oppression?

We’re all familiar with Bible verses like Isaiah 1:17.

Learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

But what if it is uncomfortable? What if seeking justice means we need to have difficult conversations? What if correcting oppression costs us more money? Do we still do what’s right or do we rationalize why it doesn’t really matter?

So I won’t be buying SheaMoisture any more. Even if it seems like “just hair stuff,” it’s actually a big deal, because I need to work on my heart and shake off some attitudes I hadn’t seen before. And thanks to this great list (click here), I’ve got some options to try!


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Eavesdropping at Chick-Fil-A

The other day, I took the babies to Chick-Fil-A, because I didn’t have enough time to go home between appointments, but couldn’t handle another minute of sitting in the car with whining children. Chick-Fil-A’s play area door is super hard to open for people younger than 6, so I could sit in a booth and read Facebook in relative peace, while they got their energy out.

Maybe it’s because we have so many seminaries and churches in Louisville, but there’s almost always Christians meeting up at our Chick-Fil-A. This time was no exception. In the booth next to mine, a couple of young guys were discussing ministry and theology.

I was a bit intrigued. (Like when you’re in a foreign country and see other Americans. You don’t necessarily introduce yourself, but you listen in to what they’re saying, just because the conversation is in English and they’re kind of your people.)

So one of the guys was sharing how his mom had asked him, “Do you know anything about Charismatic theology?” He went on, “And I told her, ‘It’s not good! His friend listening to the story reiterated, “Yeah, not good.

The thing is, my church upbringing was Charismatic. So my eavesdropping brain was thinking, “Wait? What is ‘Charismatic theology’?” Last I checked, we come in a lot of different flavors, with a plethora of theological perspectives. But apparently these guys could write every one of us off with one broad brush stroke.

It kind of made me sad, there in Chick-Fil-A. Because the other bits and pieces of their conversation sounded like stuff I would agree with, from their theology to their politics.

Really, we had more in common than we had separating us.

But I think we all do this way too often. Most of us have a group of other Christians we dislike. There is some segment of brothers and sisters that we write off, because we dislike their views.

We roll our eyes. We say, “Can you believe they think ____________ ?”

Now, I’m not saying we can’t discuss non-biblical theology. It is important to bring correction to errors within the Church. I even recognize that we might disagree so strongly, that having a friendship with those on the other side of the discussion would be a strain.

But maybe we should still give each other some grace. We could try to celebrate the places where we do agree and still hear where they’re coming from when agreement isn’t possible. We should let love cover the weaknesses we perceive and choose to learn from their strengths. Really, we must speak about our differences from a place of love, since that was Jesus’ prayer for us (John 13:35).

Because probably, we have more in common than we have separating us.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC
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How Family Photos Fell Apart. Again.

Every year, around Christmas time, we attempt family pictures. And every year, I wonder what the heck we were thinking.

Like seriously. Whether it’s a photo shoot with a photographer, or using the timer on an iPhone, one of the kids always breaks. Always.

At first glance, the pictures usually turn out OK, but if you look closer, Chris and I are smiling with angry eyes. Or we’re holding a kid’s hand down. Or a child’s cheeks are red from crying. Or the only reason they’re smiling is because we’re tickling their ribs.

Every year, I swear we’ll never do it again. But by next Christmas, the allure of casually matched outfits and the hope of smiling children’s faces does me in again.

This past Thursday, we decided to give it another go. I was optimistic.

Except, the babies wouldn’t nap. And we needed to meet the photographer at the park by 4:00.

At 2:00, they were  jumping around in their beds and I felt a bit concerned. By 2:45, I was basically panicking. At 3:00, they both fell asleep. And at 3:15, I had to wake them up to get ready. However, Enoch usually does OK with very little nap, so I thought we might still make this time the one to remember.

I had prepared so well, guys. I had extra outfits. I had stern talks with the big kids, which may have involved some guilt that they’ll need to process as adults. (“If you love me, you’ll smile in these pictures!”) I packed toys the babies could play with, that would look OK if they ended up in the pictures. I picked the big kids up early from school so we wouldn’t be rushing. We even asked our beloved babysitter to come along and help control the chaos.

But I could not have accounted for the real problem we faced. Never, in a million years, would I have guessed that Enoch would fall in love with the Ohio River.

He got out of the car, saw the sun glistening on those muddy banks and he had to have it. He needed to hold it and love it and no one was going to stop him. But because he is two, he didn’t say it like that. Instead, he refused to walk, his body went limp, and he wailed at the top of his lungs.

We tried to convince him to explore fallen logs and handed him sticks that would normally have thrilled his soul. But all he could do was cry, “Wa’er! Wa’er!”

Our photographer was great at figuring out how to make it work and suggested we let him have that river. So she snapped candid pictures of our family frolicking along the craggy edges of the water, like we were super-outdoorsy people who put on our nicest clothes to do fun stuff like that.

And listen. When we’re taking family photos, it’s not about parenting. It’s about doing whatever it takes to make that kid happy. Parenting is for when there’s no camera.

Which is why our next effort was to try to bribe him (with raisins) to sit on a blanket next to his little sister. It worked pretty good for the 2.5 seconds that he was fisting the raisins into his mouth. And then he was crying for the “wa’er” again.

But our photographer kept telling us, “These are turning out great!” and I believe her. Especially because, look at the preview she posted!:


Years from now, I won’t remember which kid was freaking out in this set of photos. I probably won’t even be able to tell that I’m internally praying that someone will pull it together so we can all look HAPPY.

I’ll just see the cute little faces and I’ll want to book another family photo shoot.


Previous years’ attempts at family pictures. Some professional, some not. But all very stressful at the time, and now treasured forever.

family00 family01 family02 family05 family06 family07 family08 family09

Thanks to Michael Will Photographers, Dalila of 1986 Photography, Matthew of 1979 Photography, and Anna May Photography for helping us capture some of these moments!


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The REAL Fall Fun

Thinking of Fall congers up images of bonfires and trips to the pumpkin patch, hot apple cider and pumpkin pie, Fall festivals and corn mazes.

But really, guys. Really.

When we were growing up, what do we REALLY remember? It wasn’t the Instagram-perfect Autumn moments. Because our parents didn’t have Instagram and they were smart enough to realize kids don’t need someone to create magic for them. So they shoved us outside to play…

In the leaves.

Leaf piles and leaf houses. Crisp dry leaves, unfortunate damp leaves, rogue sticks waiting to poke us. Leaves in the hair, leaves down the shirt. Cold fingers and noses.

Today was leaf day at our house. Chris raked up a big pile and then called the little people out to play. Enoch’s favorite part was wielding the rake. Leah vainly tried to keep leaves out of her shoes. Phoebe was unsure at first, but got into it quickly. Isaiah probably would have thought he was too big, if he hadn’t had the babies to play with.

And we tried to get a picture of all the kids in the leaf pile together. Unsuccessfully.

fall4 fall5 fall7 fall8 fall9 fall11 fall13 fall2 fall10 IMG_8163

Happy Fall, everyone!

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What Moms Don’t Tell

I was super young when I had my first two kids, so most of my friends hadn’t even thought about babies yet. I didn’t have a group of fellow moms in the trenches to unpack the woes of parenting with. Friends with older kids had already forgotten what it was like. So I thought I was doing it wrong most of the time.

When you are the only one who can’t pull it together, it’s pretty depressing.

Phoebe cryWith our second two babies, I’m older and hopefully a bit wiser. I still feel like I’m failing a lot, but thanks to social media, I know that I’m not the only one.

All the blogger moms out there, telling their traumatically funny toddler stories and epic Pinterest fails… they are a gift to us moms.

But I still see the other side of motherhood conversations too. We have plenty of moms projecting the “have it all together” image, with their success stories and perfect little birthday parties and their mommy guilt.

It’s easy for us moms to buy into that projection of “normal.” Always showered, a clean house, dinner (organic) on the table each night, and magical days filled by fingerpainting with your toddler.

Guys, nobody sane is able to pull that off. Not perfectly.

But I think, in the back of our minds, we all feel we are supposed to. So we post our few perfect moments. We only share our successes. Or we just stay quiet and suffer in silence.

Having more perspective this time around, I’m a lot better at reading between the lines.

I don’t feel intimidated by the mom who only posts her Instagram perfect moments, because I can see the edge of despair creeping around her tired eyes in the perfectly staged selfie of sandbox time with her toddler.

I know when a tired mama says, “Long day. So glad I can finally sit down,” that’s just the tip of her iceberg. The part she’s willing to share with the public.

Friends, I don’t blame us for posting our perfect, happy pictures of smiles and fun. That’s what we want to remember. And that’s what we will remember when the babies are big. Those moments are what last, when all the weariness is a distant memory.

But don’t be afraid to be real when you need to. And don’t ever think the rest of us have it all together.

We’re all drowning a little bit.

enoch cry  grumpybigkids

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How to Respond to Racial Unrest

I grew up thinking racism was dead, outside of a couple of backwards thinkers in the deep south somewhere. I mean, the Civil War ended slavery and the Civil Rights Movement ended racism, right?

If only.

The more I read history, I see how little we’ve really changed. Our laws may be different, but our hearts are still hard towards each other.

As a country, we have been in a heightened season of racial unrest for a while. There is so much sorrow, which ever way you examine the situation.

But our hearts. Our hearts are what I can’t stop talking about.

There are people who would walk old ladies across the street, who would shovel their neighbors sidewalk, who would buy a single mom some groceries, who would fundraise for disabled veterans. But when they see a struggle that is outside their own homogenous community, their words become harsh and ugly.

Guys. Calling someone a “thug” is name calling, not too far from the “N-word.” Calling people “animals” is pretty close to calling them “monkeys.” When we see a grieving family and our only comment about their loved one is “they got what they deserved,” there is a hardness in our heart. When we say, “Those people…” we’re reinforcing the very attitudes that kept segregation alive for so long.

In my own little social sphere, I find those expressions almost nonexistent in a few distinct groups:

  • People of Color (meaning anyone non-white).
  • Teachers and social workers who serve multi-ethnic communities.
  • People in interracial relationships.
  • Adoptive families, especially transracial ones.

Why? Because they either experience life as a non-white person or they love someone who experiences life as a non-white person.

When we love someone, we see things through their eyes. We have compassion for their struggle, even if we don’t understand it.

If one of my girl friends comes to me with a story about a guy that just dumped her, I don’t say, “You brought this on yourself,” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean it when he called you fat.” Nope. I’m all, “Let’s get a taser and go after him!” (more or less.)

When you love someone, you have their back. Love changes everything.

There are so many Black people that are hurting right now. They don’t live in Ferguson or New York or Baltimore. They aren’t on the streets protesting. They would never dream of setting things on fire. But they are afraid to live in America. Their hearts are broken for their community.

They are in our neighborhoods, at our workplaces. And when we spit out, “Just a bunch of thugs, got what they deserve,” their hearts break again. Because when we say, “those people,” it includes them too.

I don’t care how many Black people we claim to know. If we don’t love them enough to take the time to understand their perspective, we have no right to tell them how they should feel about events across our nation. If we don’t love them enough to grieve with them, we’re still missing it.

Let’s lay down our defensiveness about an opinion shaped by our own experiences. Let’s lay down our need to be right. Instead, let us choose love.