I have a confession to make.
Over the past several months, during coverage of police shooting black men, I held tight to the belief that the men must have done something to provoke the officers – maybe the officer thought the man was reaching for a gun, and the officer was acting to protect himself.  I knew the brutality was still not justified regardless, but I simply couldn’t understand – or didn’t want to believe – how or why a police officer would shoot without reason. I imagined the offending officers going home and feeling regret, remorse, embarrassment at their actions. Call that sliver of hope what you will: naiveté, maybe ignorance. I held on to that belief because I did not want to believe the alternative: that a human being sworn to protect other human beings, sworn to uphold the law, could ever break that code by killing someone for no apparent reason. I wrestled with the truth even after knowing that it’s happening close to home, as my husband told me first hand stories of witnessing racial profiling while out with his friends.
The Philando Castile incident has forever and irrevocably shattered those beliefs.
I am frozen today, wondering how in 2016, with our first black President in office, this senseless violence can continue. I am ashamed that I haven’t paid more attention to the follow-up from the previous incidents. Some instances I followed in great detail; other times I chose to look away because I didn’t want to take the time and space to process the pain that came with the truth.
To my white friends who want to believe the best and ignore the truth, as I did, and who continue to look for a reason to justify the actions of the offending officers: it’s time to wake up. I know the truth is heartbreaking. Slow down and take it in. The fact that you have not experienced racial profiling or hatred of this magnitude does not mean it does not exist. And it does not give us the excuse to minimize it. We cannot continue to ignore the truth and carry on in oblivion. These are crimes committed against humanity. They cannot continue. I keep thinking of my black friends – what if it happened to one of them? To the families & friends of the victims – it IS them.
To my black friends and interracial families: I cannot imagine how these incidents make you feel – the fear they must strike in you. I don’t have many words of comfort knowing that the skin color you were born in could automatically determine the way you are treated. It’s not right. I love you and I stand, heartbroken and outraged, with you. ❤
To my friends who are police officers or family of them: I know that the bad choices of the officers involved mean you have to deal with threats, anger, disrespect, and words thrown at you that you do not deserve. I’m sorry. I recognize that these situations likely have elevated the fear you live with on a daily basis: fear that you will be attacked for wearing a uniform, fear that you will make the wrong call, fear that you will make a fatal mistake. Maybe you question your training or which of your fellow officers you can trust. I hope you do not question your judgment or your commitment to your vocation. Thank you for continuing to put yourself at risk to protect the rest of us. I pray for your safety and wisdom. Know that there are still people who support you and do not lump you in with the officers who made those fatal choices.
To the police departments in question: I pray that the chiefs and administration realize what’s on the line. That healing cannot come without honesty. That restoration will not happen unless the truth is wholly revealed, mistakes are admitted, responsibility is taken, apologies are made, and justice is done. I pray for strength, wisdom, and courage for those who are making these decisions. For the offending officers: I pray you have strong community to walk with you during this time who advise you to do what is right even though it hurts.
To everyone: Can we commit to loving one another better? To refrain from snap judgements? To getting to know one another on a personal level, not assuming anything about anyone because of their race, religion, sex, or political affiliation?
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
#saytheirname #blacklivesmatter #philandocastile #altonsterling

Update: New phone & Celebration of Hope!

It’s been quiet on the blog for the past week or so. Here’s why.

Almost 2 weeks ago now, I leaned over to grab my daughter and knelt directly on my phone. The glass front shattered. It worked for awhile even with the shattered screen – and I was relieved when my dad said that he could replace the front if I purchased a new one – which was only $5 on Amazon! Much cheaper than buying my phone at full price :$450 – and just so you know, because of promotions and upgrade eligibility, I only paid taxes for it when I bought it. A whopping $3 and change.

Long story short, when my dad tried to fix it, he realized he actually couldn’t fix it. So for almost 2 days there I had no phone whatsoever. Now before you go all archaic on me and say, “UNPLUG! It’s good for you from time to time!” or start preaching why technology is ruining our culture, let me tell you something. A mom, who pretty much has her 3 young children with her at all times, cannot really survive without a phone. Maybe if we had a house phone, it would be more reasonable. But think about this: I had no way to contact my daughter’s school or dance studio if something came up. I had no way to call anyone in case of emergency. I couldn’t talk to my hubby while he was at work, couldn’t confirm with babysitters, couldn’t communicate with my manager at my job. It’s just impractical to try to live without a phone these days. So I did end up purchasing a new phone. Thankfully Sprint has enacted a new policy – “Easy Pay” I think they call it – in which you can make payments on your phone over 24 months with no interest. (PS. I got insurance on the phone this time!)

While we’re on the topic, am I the only one that finds getting a new phone a huge hassle? I’d rather keep the same phone for several years as long as it’s in good working order so I don’t have to transfer contacts and photos (you KNOW some always get lost), and reassign ring tones, and contact groups, and arrange all your shortcuts, etc. etc. I just don’t have time for this anymore. It’s also quite possible I’ve decided it’s not important enough to take the time to do it. 😉

So, while I did make a few things that were blog-worthy in the last week, I was unable to take pictures or post from my phone – and at least half of my posts come from my mobile; I basically treat it like a mini-computer (it is, isn’t it?!).

Not only was this going on, but we had some very exciting things going on at our church! Once a year, in the spring, we have our Celebration of Hope. Each year we focus on something different that’s going on in the world – what areas need help? What groups of people could use resources, encouragement, access to clean water, community building, church building, access to medical services, education about growing gardens which provide food and generate income?

When I first started attending my church, I felt at odds with their Compassion & Justice ministry. I didn’t feel like I fit in that area. While I felt bad for those in deep poverty and thought maybe someday my daughter and I could go on a missions trip together, I didn’t think I had the time, resources, or abilities to make any sort of difference in this area. In short, I was glad our church was doing it, but I wasn’t participating.

Slowly but surely, God changed my heart. Hearing stories, stats, facts; watching interviews; seeing what a difference it was making in our church partners in other countries was inspiring. It showed me the work God was doing in other countries. He is the same – a GOOD, reliable, trustworthy, loving God – no matter where we live.

So this year I participated at a higher level than ever before. This had a lot to do with my small church community – my church family. They know me. They know my kids. They know my limitations. My church family freed me to serve. (Do I have to mention that I love my church family? 🙂 )

So what did we do??? Celebration of Hope is 3 weeks long.
1. The first week, the church told the story of women in Guatemala who weave beautiful fabrics to support their family. Unfortunately these women are unable to attend school because they have to work so much, from the time they are young girls. The church in the area is working to help more young girls go to school. The weaver women in Guatemala weaved fabric, which Guatemalan men made into oven mitts… which our church purchased and gifted to each family. Now every time I use my oven mitt I am reminded of our church partners in Guatemala, pray for them, and am filled with gratitude that we have so much food to chose from, and to eat every day.

My Oven Mitt

My Oven Mitt

2. The next week we all packed seeds together. I believe last year they packed somewhere in the neighborhood of 500,000 seed packs that were sent to Africa and Latin America. The communities that receive them are able to grow fresh food in new gardens. Not only does this give them a much closer source of healthy food for their families and community, but they are able to sell the surplus at market and make a profit to support their family. This year our goal was to pack 1 MILLION seed packs. As of Sunday, we were on track to EXCEED that goal. God is so good!

Seed packing: A helped, B helped, and C fell asleep in my lap.

Seed packing: A helped, B helped, and C fell asleep in my lap.

3. This last week, on Saturday, I participated in my first ever 5k!! They grouped us into different categories – runners under 8 minutes, under 9, etc., down to the walkers & strollers (that was us!). The proceeds from the 5k went to fund AIDS orphans’ education. I don’t think I’ll be able to accurately describe what happened here, but I’ll try. We walked alongside other parents with strollers and young kids. We walked along wheel chairs and special needs kids. I was passed by a blind couple who were holding hands and power-walking using only their walking sticks and their sense of hearing. Later on we were passed by Team Tony, who carried a large banner for the whole 3+ miles, and he drove his power wheelchair the whole way. My community pastor’s daughter walked with us, running and sometimes carrying my 3 year old, even with a blister on her foot. At one point I was pushing the stroller and I heard my 6 year old remark, “This is a long walk!” My community pastor’s daughter then said, “Do you know that in some countries they have to walk this far or further to get water?” My heart about burst. THIS IS THE VALUE SYSTEM WE ARE BUILDING INTO OUR KIDS. It is a generational legacy of compassion and justice – not just turning away from those in need, but by prayer and through God’s grace and supplication, providing for them in whatever way we can. I want to raise my kids with an awareness that we are not the only people on the planet – we are not the only country that’s important – every person matters to God. And sometimes the way we show God’s love to others is by simply showing them that because God loves them, we love them too – and we are just God’s willing hands and feet that are able to share God’s provision with them. I don’t want my kids to only know about the things going on in other countries, but be fully participating members of God’s church on earth, expressing His love to those who don’t know it, or to those who know it but need reminders. After the 5k, A said it was the best day of her life. She loved the thrill of crossing the finish line and having those at the end of the race cheer for her. (She was running with my friend’s daughter, and a few remarks were “You go girls!” and “Look at those girls go!”) She’s also been bragging that she beat mommy 😉 How awesome to have a community that encourages the next generation to fully participate in compassion and justice work!

COH2014 5k 106B

Some of our section community before the 5k

COH2014 5k girls

The girls ❤

And Sunday, our pastor shared some history with us. He started with how the poor become poor. He debunked the somewhat common belief that poverty stricken countries ‘did it to themselves’ due to laziness or lack of intelligence. I was sickened at the history he shared with us about the Congo. But by the end of the message he was sharing with us how much poverty has decreased in the last 30 years. And, that if everyone who is participating in reducing poverty continues what they’re doing, we could see the end of poverty in the next 30 years. GOD IS SO GOOD.

At the end of the message we took our once-a-year extra offering. While the baskets were being passed around, they showed a video of some of the church partners praying for US.

Has anyone who seemingly has less than you ever prayed that YOU would be blessed?

Let me just say by the end of that prayer, there was a symphony of sniffles, and lots of wiping of tears.

And I realized that God doesn’t call us his hands and feet just so we can help others – He knows the way He created us. He created us IN HIS IMAGE. And God is love. He knows that when we bless others, we will be doubly blessed in return. I’ve heard missionaries say this before: they went to help a community, but they received more in return than they gave. But this was the first time I really understood what that meant – because it was the first year I fully participated in the opportunity God put before our church. It was humbling and beautiful, and I can now say God has really given me a heart for these communities. I am glad to hear about their victories. I am saddened when I hear of their sorrows. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.”

My heart is so full after these 3 weeks. COH has become my favorite time of year. This song pretty well sums up how I feel: Do Something by Matthew West

Next time you think, “that’s not my gift” or that you are not capable, just remember… God may have other things in store for you… and He is the master of our hearts. ❤

To read more about Celebration of Hope, click here.
To watch all three Celebration of Hope messages, click here.