Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Confession of a recovering racist


#Ferguson.  If you've spent time on any social media platform in the past couple of weeks, you've seen it.  If you're like me, you don't know quite enough about this story to understand fully or make judgments, but in situations like this one it's hard to imagine that racism isn't involved on some level.

And if you're like me, it's easy for you to get on your high horse and rage against the evil of racism, to decry the lack of justice in the world, to insist that something be done.

But as I've thought deeply about the events of the past couple of weeks, I realize that for the most part, any raging I would do is really a cover for the real something that still needs to happen in my own heart.

* * * * *
I came by my racism honestly.

I was born in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960's.  Memphis was well on the way to being racially integrated before I arrived on the scene, so I didn't know that it was a big deal that Candace, my dark-skinned friend in Miss Haywood's first grade class, would not have been allowed in my classroom just a few years earlier.  I didn't know that Mrs. Bell wouldn't have been allowed to be my second-grade teacher.  I didn't know about the April 1968 shooting at the Lorraine Motel.  I knew that the Safety Patrol at my school conducted riot drills along with fire drills, but I didn't know why.

My parents did know all about those issues, and when the authorities in Memphis decided to further enact school integration by busing students, they joined thousands of others in what's now called "white flight."  We moved out to a neighboring county, well away from the jurisdiction of the Memphis City Schools.

Because, of course, my parents were law-abiding citizens.  Had we stayed in Memphis, they would have complied with the law.  Laws may change a person's behavior, and sometimes that's an important and necessary step.  But they don't change a person's heart.

At heart, we were racists.  I didn't know it at the time, but we were.  So were most of our friends and neighbors.

Don't get me wrong.  I was blessed that my folks were good people.  My family was Christian, and at church we sang about how people of all races were precious in God's sight.  I think we believed that, at least in theory. So far as I know, my parents treated people well, regardless of race.  I'm grateful for that.

What I've come to realize, though, is that now matter how seemingly benign a form of racism may be, it's dangerous.  Our kind of racism wasn't overt, but it was very much part of our idea of reality.  The thought of one race being superior to another was one of our underlying assumptions.

Here's the thing about underlying assumptions, though.  Once a false notion is accepted as truth, it changes the way we think.  It alters the way we perceive what's happening around us. Almost as though we were wearing glasses of the wrong prescription, we see distorted images--but we don't realize that we're not seeing clearly.  Those distorted images appear to support what we assume to be true, and our false notions are reinforced.


At least that's the way it was for me.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I had my racism challenged and mostly defeated when I was a young adult.  My husband and I lived in a very small town, and I was blessed to have a wonderful obstetrician who was from Africa.  This black man was a caring and competent physician; he delivered two of my three children.  Since then, I've been blessed with friends and colleagues of all different races.  I hope and believe that my children have grown up without particular racial prejudices.

But I know my own heart.  And though I work at not allowing racism of any kind to seep back in, it's still much too easy for me to fall into thinking in terms of racial stereotypes.  For instance, it's easy for me to think that all Africans are strong and all Asians are intelligent.  While those may be positive attributes, they're still stereotypes, and I have no business clinging to them.  Allowing myself to think in terms of sweeping generalizations of any kind is dangerous.



So when I hear about events like the ones in Ferguson, Missouri, I might find it tempting to rant about injustice, to rage against wrongs that need to be righted.  But if I allow traces of racism to lurk in my own heart, what good have I accomplished?

In the middle of thinking about all this, I read these words from Thomas a Kempis, in Chapter 11 of The Imitation of Christ:

"How can he abide long in peace who occupies himself with other men's matters, and with things outside himself, and meanwhile pays little or rare heed to the self within?  Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall have abundance of peace."

Ouch.

I applaud those who are working to make things better in Ferguson, Missouri.  I stand in solidarity with them.  But before I can stand strong, I need to keep bending my knee, repenting of my own foolish notions, and confessing the sin that's present in my own heart.

Dear Lord, forgive me.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grace at Home No. 117


Welcome, friends!  I'm glad you're here for the weekly Grace at Home party.

God's grace is the stuff of life--not just for forgiveness, but for everything.  Every good thing is a gift from God's hand.  So each week we pause here to give thanks for all His gifts and to celebrate the ways we make our homes reflections of that grace.

Here are a few links that caught my eye last week.

LuAnn at Lovely Livings Blog made her front porch a gracious and welcoming place.  Don't you just want to sit a spell?


One of the most charming gallery walls I've seen was shared by Jenise at Do-It-Yourself Fun Ideas: all clocks and frames!
Amy at Home Remedies shared some wonderful ways to dress up faux flowers using dollar store finds.  Frugal and so pretty!



Heather at Encouraged at Home shared some hard-earned wisdom with us in her post about coping with a tough diagnosis.  So helpful!



Many of us are looking ahead to Autumn, and there were two recipes shared this week that I'm tucking away to make this Fall.

First, this Beef Ragu from Bernadette at Barefoot Hippie Girl:



And this yummy Apple-Pear Crisp from Theresa at Shoestring Elegance.  Amazingly, it's gluten-free!


Last, I shared the story of our pilgrimage to Normandy, and I'd love for you to see it.


These are just a few of my favorites.  Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button (the code is right over in my sidebar).  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


 
Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pilgrimage to Normandy


Friends, I am so excited to share with you the details of my travels to France!  Many of you followed along as I posted photos on Instagram and Facebook.  I truly appreciate your prayers for our safety and blessing in travel.


To say that we were grateful to make this trip is an enormous understatement.  Visiting Normandy was a lifetime dream of my husband's, so it became my dream as well.  To be in the places where such momentous events of the 20th century took place was, for us, a pilgrimage.



As you know, beginning in 1939, Hitler's forces occupied much of Europe, including France.  The Nazis heartlessly visited their plans for domination of much of the free world upon all who would stand in their way.  Most notorious for their systemic extermination of millions of Jews, the Nazis also killed and enslaved hundreds of thousands of others, all of whom they deemed to be inferior to the "Master Race." Allied with Italy and Japan in a quest to rule the world, Nazi forces had to be stopped.

But stopping a war machine as effective as the Nazis would not come easily.  Allied leaders knew that defeating the Nazis would require an invasion of territory occupied by the Germans.  To be successful, the effort would require huge numbers of troops as well as massive quantities of ammunition and supplies.  Organizing an effort of such scale took many months of planning and the efforts of millions of people, both military and civilian.  Those efforts came to fruition on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Allied forces mounted a successful invasion of Nazi-occupied France.  From beachheads established in June 1944, Allied troops were able to push the Nazis back into Germany, liberating thousands of people who had suffered under Nazi rule and culminating with the eventual defeat of the Nazi forces and suicide of Adolf Hitler in the spring of 1945.

But what a cost.  On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy, including 73,000 Americans.  By June 11, over 325,000 troops had gone ashore in Normandy.  The evil of fascism was defeated at a huge price.  Over 209,000 Allied troops were killed, wounded, or went missing during the Battle of Normandy.

70 years later, we who live in relative peace and prosperity owe much to the generation of men and women who paid dearly for that freedom.  For us, visiting the sites where so many lives were given in the defeat of evil was a deeply spiritual experience.  We have so much to be thankful for!

If you're not familiar with the historical events of 1944, I encourage to read about it.  There are many authors who have written about the Battle of Normandy, and many of them are so good.  I particularly recommend the works of Stephen Ambrose and Martin Gilbert.

And now a pictorial review of our time in Normandy!  We took over 700 photos, but I'll share just a few.

First of all, we were amazingly blessed with a wonderful place to stay.  I found the Chateau de Neuilly la Foret online, and after staying there I told my family I felt that I'd won the internets.  In the 11th century, William the Conqueror gave some of the land in the Elle and Aure valleys to his half-brother Odon, Bishop of Bayeux. Odon had a chateau built in the marsh, which became an important fortress during the Hundred Years' War.  Over the centuries, the chateau was used as a country residence for the bishops of the diocese, and it served as a place of refuge for the bishops during times of unrest. Gradually it was used less and less by the bishops until it was finally sold at auction.  Part of the chateau was destroyed at the beginning of the 19th century, but part of it survives to this day--and that was the house I found as a vacation rental.

Be still, my history-loving heart!

From what we'd read online, we knew the house would be special, but our hearts skipped a beat as we drove up the lane.


Oh, my.


Although much of the original chateau has not survived, the remaining house is amazing.



And the grounds?  Well, see for yourself.



Remnants of a stone chapel and barn grace the landscape, just outside a beautiful walled garden.



Above the kitchen sink was what I think of as a "Monet window."  See how thick the walls are?


The view out the window on a foggy morning looks like an impressionist painting:


Here's one of my favorite Instagrams from our trip: a little late-evening snack at the chateau.  We enjoyed flowers from the garden and camembert made right in Normandy.


Just beyond the chateau gardens were pastures of Norman cattle.  No wonder Normandy is known for its butter and cheese--there were dairy cows everywhere!


If you've never rented a vacation place, I suggest you try it!  Sites such as vrbo.com are easy to use; just be sure to read the reviews and ask questions of the owner.  We've had great luck finding wonderful places to stay both in the U.S. and abroad.  Staying in a house or apartment is so much nicer and more budget-friendly than staying in hotels, particularly if you're traveling with a family.
While we weren't relaxing at the chateau, we were driving all over Normandy (northwestern France).   Here are peeks at some of the most notable places we visited.
The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.  Over 9000 Americans are buried here, laid to rest in the country they gave their lives to liberate.

I never realized this cemetery is right on the hill above the beach--see the English Channel in the background of the photo?

Particularly moving to me was this monument at the American cemetery, a tribute to the citizen soldiers of the U.S. armed forces.  It reads:  "For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace.  They fight not for the lust of conquest: they fight to end conquest.  They fight to liberate. . . . They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home."


Omaha Beach is huge; you can get an idea of the expanse of the beach by seeing me and my boys standing there.  Today it's a peaceful place for French people on holiday.  (Of course, this area is not really named "Omaha Beach"; Utah, Omaha, Juno, Gold, and Sword were the code names assigned to the five D-Day landing sites.  Utah and Omaha were taken by American forces; Juno, by Canadian troops; and Gold and Sword by British forces.  While the landing at Utah Beach went fairly well, Americans suffered terribly heavy casualties at Omaha Beach.)  

Utah Beach is beautiful and serene, but the German bunkers still stand intact today, 70 years after D-Day.
One of the most moving places we visited was Pointe du Hoc, the site of huge German gun emplacements that overlooked both Utah and Omaha Beach.  U.S. Rangers scaled these sheer cliffs with grappling hooks in order to the destroy the guns.  When they reached the top, the guns had been moved, so the Rangers moved inland, located the guns, and put them out of commission.  Their bravery saved countless lives.

Here I am walking around with my three sons, ages 23, 21, and 17.  Had we lived 70 years earlier, my boys might very well have been among those troops who landed on D-Day.  My heart breaks as I think of the agonizing sacrifice of young lives made on these battlefields!


Another of our favorite spots was the village of Sainte Mere Eglise, made famous when many members of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions landed here.  As you can see, St. Mary's Church is still standing.

 

The gun batteries of Longues sur Mer were amazing.  Here the gun emplacements stand in excellent shape, having withstood heavy bombardment and 70 years of time gone by.


This photo will give you an idea of the size of those guns:


As you can see, the fortifications of Hitler's Atlantic Wall were intended to withstand heavy assault.  Thank God the Allies were able to prevail against the Nazi forces.

We also really enjoyed the Pegasus Bridge museum, located between Caen and Ouistreham.  This bridge was vital to the invasion plan, and it was captured by a glider-borne unit of British airborne troops in the first few minutes of June 6, 1944.  The bravery of the glider pilots and troops is especially inspiring to me.


We loved the fact that the historical sites are a boon to the local economy.  These folks had to suffer through the devastation of having critical battles take place in their hometowns; how fitting that they would now benefit from having people visit!  All over Normandy we saw signs that read "Welcome to our liberators!" and we were thrilled to see British, Canadian, and U.S. flags flying alongside the French flag.

We enjoyed visiting some other wonderful places in France as well as the battle sites.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Mont St. Michel



(We snapped this photo from the car window, so delighted were we at the sight of the abbey rising from the sea just beyond the farmland.)

Bayeux Cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry (remember, we were staying in the home of the Bishop of Bayeux)



Hon Fleur



and of course Paris sites such as the Eiffel Tower


the palace at Versailles



and the Arc de Triomphe.


Our trip was filled with fun and laughter, and we are grateful for a lovely vacation.  We are most thankful, though, for the chance to show these boys of ours--boys who have lived primarily with peace rather than war--what a high price has been paid for their freedom.  Having seen firsthand the vestiges of this awful war, I believe they're more deeply committed to peace.  And I think they're more grateful for all that's so easy to take for granted.  I know I am.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

(20th century French prayer, often attributed to St. Francis)

Have you ever made a pilgrimage?  How has the experience shaped you?

I'm joining these lovely parties:
Thought-Provoking Thursday at 3-D Lessons for Life 
Thoughtful Thursday at Eat Sleep Be
Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Grace at Home No. 116


Hello, friends!  Welcome to the 116th Grace at Home party.  I'm so glad you're here!

Here are some of the wonderful entries from the past couple of parties.

Lisa at Texas Decor transformed her kitchen table and chairs using one of my favorite products: spray paint!  She offers a full tutorial of how she achieved this great look:


Another great table transformation was submitted by Kristi at Making It in the Mountains, and she shares lessons learned about every step of the process.


Kendra at Joy in Our Home created a beautiful board-and-batten headboard, and she gives full instructions of how to make it.  Isn't it lovely?


Tammy at The Colored Door had a wonderful idea: she painted house numbers right onto her door.  I love this!

Damjana from AppleGreen Cottage created colorful little notebooks by sewing them!  Wouldn't this make a neat gift?


And the hilarious Kari from A Grace Full Life shared a recipe for Rolo Cake.  Did you catch that?  A cake that contains Rolo candies.  Oh, my word.



These are just a few of my favorites.  Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button (the code is right over in my sidebar).  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


 
Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Grace at Home No. 115


Welcome, welcome!  I'm so glad you're here for the Grace at Home party!

I've been out of town all week, so I haven't yet had a chance to compile a list of favorites from last week's party.  Next week I'll do a double feature, okay?


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!