A Place to Sleep

We’re staring down the home stretch of this pregnancy to a due date.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally let myself do some of the things.  We organized some closets.  We ordered some size one diapers (I grow big babies).  My mom graciously washed newborn clothes and bottles and we put them in their place.  I’m starting to believe this may actually happen.  This baby may be born healthy and strong.  It may even come home.

FDED7223-92A4-4B24-989B-40B209C6C3F0We’re more minimalist than I thought I would be as a parent.  No perfectly decorated nursery for Emerson or this next child.  Our plan for this one is a pack and play in the office till sleeping through the night is a thing.  Then, both children will share.  I’ve gone back and forth feeling guilty about this.  Should my children have perfectly decorated rooms?  Shouldn’t I have a picture to post of that?

I’ve started to think about some of the newborn things.  Schedules.  Breast feeding.  Pumping.  How to juggle two children.  Laundry.  Bottle washing.  All the things.  I’ve started to ask a few questions of others about what the next few months may look like.  I’m in a few mom Facebook groups that I’ve started to pay more attention to recently as I watch discussions about naps and feedings.  I’ve read about the exhaustion and frustration.

We had set aside today to have some fun with Emerson and to do some good cleaning of our house.  Nothing says I’m 38 weeks pregnant with an object the size of a watermelon in my belly like scrubbing a toilet.  Well we had set aside today to only focus on some cleaning.

F8AAA42C-46F4-4DB2-AE64-B6C600CD25D0Late yesterday I received a message from a pregnant teenager saying she needed a place to live, 11 weeks pregnant and very unsure of what her future holds.  Then Donte needed our help today too.  He’s been out of a 3-month-jail-stay for a probation violation (maybe more about that in the future) for less than 48 hours and is already running out of options.  Smith and Smith Social Services was open for business.  I was researching pregnancy housing one minute and editing our list of resources for Donte to call the next.  JR was on the phone with him planning a route on public transportation for them to meet so Donte could borrow a computer to do some research.

IMG_2159I think about these three people – my “first” boy Donte, this pregnant teenager, and her unborn child – they aren’t sure where they are going to sleep in the near future.  While we were a little distracted at times today, I explained to Emerson that we were helping Donte find a bed in which to sleep.

“A big bed?” She asked.  She’s very fascinated with the idea of a big bed right now.  She had one for three days in June and then was demoted for bad behavior on my birthday.

“Yes, honey a very big bed.  Donte is taller than the door.  He used to sleep in the bed in your room.”

Then we prayed for Donte to find a safe bed.

It’s easy to fall into the middle-class motherhood trap, where the things matter so much.  I’ve caught myself being tempted by those things in recent days.  But today my heart broke for three people who are worried about something much more basic – where to sleep, what to eat, where to live.

When JR went back to pick up our computer from Donte, I sent him with a packed dinner of anything I could find in our fridge.  Our 6-foot-8-man-boy had only eaten once in 48 hours.

Being a parent is not an easy task, I’m very aware of that.  I’m also aware that its a tremendous gift.    I’m writing tonight to remind myself in a few weeks that when I’m tempted to be overwhelmed by the daily things (the laundry, the spit up, the crying, the lack of sleep) and when I’m tempted to focus on complaining about how hard it is, that all this baby really needs is a safe place to sleep, some food to eat, and some love.  With Jesus in me, I can do all of that.

It’s a broken world we’re bringing a child into.  Today was a painful reminder of that. There are so many “kids” out there who haven’t been given what we hope to give our children.  It’s not as it should be.

One of our favorite children books is “God made light.”  The line that currently makes me teary says, “And on the day you were born God said ‘Let there be light.'” 

With that truth, I hope to bring our next child into the world.  Baby, we want you to be the kind of person that will work to push back darkness in the world.  The kind of person that will love Jesus and be light to those living in brokenness.  We want you to grow up to be an adult who will care for women in crisis pregnancy situations and minority men who have fallen into the broken criminal justice cycle and other people like them.  In the meantime, your mama is going to try her hardest to not sweat the less important stuff (your appearance, your performance, your nursery, nor your schedule).  Hope to see you soon.  If you want to come tonight, that’d be great because the house is perfectly clean and that like never happens.

Why I bought my light-skinned daughter a dark-skinned baby doll

I remember looking through the American Girl Doll catalog as a young girl and wondering why they had Addie, the black doll.

There was one black girl I remember at my elementary school.  She was bused in from downtown for an opportunity to go to a better suburban school.  There are a few times I remember her having a very snotty nose.  I thought she was weird.

I don’t remember anything about people of color from my time in junior high school.  Probably because I didn’t look past myself very often, right mom?

In high school, I had two guy friends who were black who attended our youth group.

But really, it wasn’t until college, when I was serving as a Young Life leader at an urban high school that I can actually remember befriending people with a dark skin color.  That was the first time I had an up close view of the black community.  I visited their homes and their churches.  I learned about their families and their dreams.  It was also the first time I befriended people who were a part of a lower socioeconomic class than me.  I had done a service project or mission trip to serve people, but I’d never built real relationships with people different than me before.  I learned about what it was like to grow up in poverty and to continue to live in it.  I learned that a high school diploma was truly an accomplishment.  As I befriended these girls and their families, my love for them grew.  They are part of some of my best college memories.

In light of recent events in America, I think it’s easy to see that many people are like me.  A lot of us haven’t grown up with a clue of what it’s like to be black in America.  Sure we aren’t racist – we don’t think less of them because they are a different skin color.  We have just grown up separate from them and we haven’t looked for opportunities to go out of our way to find a way to interact.  Our paths haven’t crossed. The generations before us did a lot of hard work to fight for black rights and to stop segregation in America.  Perhaps for the last few decades we’ve lived on cruise control when it comes to the black-white relationship in America.  Over the last two years, I think it’s been made clear that it’s time to turn off cruise control and do the hard work to move forward.

Last week I went to Target to buy the first baby doll for my daughter Emerson.  She’s the cutest blonde-haired blue-eyed girl around, in my very biased opinion.  There were tons of options on the shelves.  Baby Alive was far too complicated for her age.  Several had very creepy eyes.  I wanted something that was all fabric and could be washed.  Along with something where she could practice taking care of a baby in order to get ready to be a big sister one day.  I settled on one doll in particular that met my requirements.  It came with a magnetic bottle and paci, as well as a plush toy and a little book for the doll.  Bonus! There are other outfits I can buy for it in the future.  There were two different models on the shelf: one light-skinned and one dark-skinned.  I instinctively grabbed the light-skinned blonde-haired doll.  However before I could walk away, I hesitated.

It’s a lie when people say that they don’t see color.  We all see different skin color.  Our differences are a beautiful thing when we learn to appreciate them.  Gina Torres is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen and I love her dark coloring.  With my senses, I will acknowledge that others look different than me.  What I have trained my heart to do is to love people regardless of our differences.  What I want to train my daughter to do is to love people regardless of our differences.

I put the light-skinned doll back on the shelf and I walked out of Target with the dark-skinned one. Actually, that’s a lie.  I put the light-skinned doll back on the shelf and I walked out of Target without a doll.  I was convicted that I should buy the dark-skinned one, but I was worried people would think it was weird.  That evening I talked to JR about it and he affirmed by decision to buy the darker doll.  The next day I went back to Target, no complaints there, and bought the dark-skinned doll.

Can you guess what my sweet girl has been doing for the past week?  She has been hugging that baby doll.  She has been giving it a bottle and a paci.  She carries it around the house with her.  She loves that doll.

Emerson with doll

This doll won’t be what compels her to love people who don’t look like her all the days of her life.  I’m not naive enough to believe that.  But, I do believe that it will be part of the narrative of how we train Emerson to love people regardless of their differences.  From her earliest memories, I want her to know that we are on this earth to show God’s unconditional love to all people.  Later in life when she interacts with people who don’t look like her or think like her, I hope there is a faint memory of her love for this doll or at least a photograph of it.

In her future, it will feel complicated to figure out how to love people who aren’t like her.  How can I avoid saying something dumb to them? Are they going to like the same food as me?  Will I offend them if I do this? Right now it’s simple: she hugs that dark-skinned baby doll as tightly as she would a white one.


Dad’s day

When Emerson was just a few weeks old, JR and I went to lunch at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants with our precious girl asleep in her carrier.  The man sitting next to us struck up a conversation with us when he saw JR’s “Young Life” hat.  We talked briefly about ministry, DTS and our newborn.  The man finished his meal, exited the restaurant and then came back to our table with a book for JR on being a dad.  As he handed him the book he said, “Be a dad, not just a father.”  After he left, we talked about this statement and what it means to be a dad.

It seems to me that father is the term used for the role and dad is more a term of endearment.  Dads do more than just donate a sperm.  Dads provide.  Dads love.  Dads show up.  Dads forgive.  Dads encourage.  Dads teach.  Dads discipline.  Dads cheer.  Dads support.  Dads hug.  Dads play.

daddy and me blanket

I recently returned from a week of Young Life camp with teen moms.  As I listened to their stories, I was shocked by how many of their parents have completely dropped the ball on parenting.  The effects have been devastating to these teenagers.  These girls have needed their dads and most of them barely have a father.  After every week of Young Life camp I attend, I am incredibly thankful for both my parents, especially my dad.  My dad has always been active and involved in my life.  He has embodied what it means to be a dad.

Daddy and me alex baptism

While I was growing up, my dad played with me.  Whenever he came home from work he would jump in with whatever I was doing.  He played make believe.  He played with toys.  He played tennis with me.  He wrestled with us.  He tickled us.  We played hide and seek for hours.  I remember thinking of him as my playmate, not just an adult.

Daddy and me selfie

I can’t remember a time where I ever doubted my dad’s love for me.  He made it clear with his words and his actions that he loved me.  He communicated his love for me over and over again.  He said, “I love you.”  He gave me hugs and kisses.  He gave me back tickles for hours.  He came to my side in the middle of the night when I yelled for him to ask for a drink of water from the cup on my nightstand.  Bless him for that.  As I have become an adult, he has called me and texted me.  Once we started living in separate cities, he took me to fancy dinners when he was in town.  He has made it a priority to see me.  I have always known that he loves me.

Daddy and me

Before I write them, I almost want to eat these words.  My former teenage self is cringing right now.  In my head, I can hear my mom saying, “You’ll thank us for this later.”  Part of me hates it, but she’s right.  My dad wasn’t afraid to tell me no.  I am so thankful for that.  Yes, he was a little easier to get a yes out of than mom; but, he still gave me rules and boundaries.  He wasn’t afraid of taking away a privilege.  He was fine not being my friend for a few hours, days or weeks.  He gave me a curfew.  He grounded me on occasion.  He yelled at me when I deserved it.  He corrected me if I mouthed off to my mother.  Much to my dismay, I did not run my house when I was a teenager.  Already with Emerson, I am learning that saying no may be one of the best ways I can love her.  My dad told me no when he knew it was going to be in my best interest for the long-term.  As an adolescent, I did not know how to always choose what was best for me.  My dad communicated his love for me by stepping in and giving me guidance and boundaries when I needed them most.

Hook em daddy and me

My father is a dad because he played, he loved and he said no.  I love him so!


Happy Dad’s Day!

Wedding daddy and me