Friday, August 18, 2017

Confession of a recovering racist


In June 2015, members of our church joined with Christians all over the world to lament the murders of nine precious brothers and sisters in Charleston, South Carolina.  We prayed together:

We stand with our sisters
We stand with our brothers
We stand with our families
We stand to bear their burdens in Jesus name

And this past week, we dedicated time to lament the ridiculous actions of white "supremacists" (a term I hate, since there is no such thing as the supremacy of any race) in Charlottesville, Virginia. Again we prayed, again we vowed to stand with our brothers and sisters.

In the wake of such tragedies, it's easy for me to get on my 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 these days, 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 all people well, regardless of race. I'm grateful for that.

What I've come to realize, though, is that no matter how seemingly mild 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 others was one of our underlying assumptions, whether we realized it or not.

It's easy to rant and rage against racial injustice, but we need to do the hard work of changing our own hearts, then working for justice.

Here's the thing about underlying assumptions: 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've had my racism challenged and partially defeated by knowing many wonderful, talented, brilliant people of races different from my own. I thank God for this.

It's easy to rant and rage against racial injustice, but we need to do the hard work of changing our own hearts, then working for justice.

But I know my own heart. I don't want to be racist, and while I work at not allowing racism of any kind to linger, it's still much too easy for me to fall into thinking in terms of racial stereotypes. This is ridiculous, and I know better, but I'm still susceptible to wrong thinking.

Besides that, it's easy for me to bristle against the idea of "white privilege." I grew up in the South, but my ancestors were not slaveowners. My people were poor. My grandfather was a sharecropper; my husband's grandfather, a tenant farmer. My parents and my husband and I have had to work hard—really hard—for the progress we've made. So the idea of "privilege" can seem preposterous to me.

Yet I've never had to worry about my own race. I've never been frowned upon for no reason. I haven't had to explain myself or defend my right to be in certain places. If I achieve success in an endeavor, no one questions whether I deserve it or if I might have received it only because of my race. I've never been suspected of unlawful behavior. If I walk around my neighborhood, no one questions my right to be here. I've never had to worry about whether the way I dressed on any given day might make people respect me less. Shoot, I've even been able to shop for "nude" shoes, knowing that they'd be the color of my skin.

Every day I enjoy privileges that I take completely for granted. Again, my vision can be distorted without my ever recognizing that I'm not seeing clearly.

It is right and good to work for societal change.  I am deeply grateful for the progress in social justice that has been made in this country. One needn't reach too far back into American history to find evidence of terrible, entrenched racism, even racial violence, as a societal norm. An intensive study completed by the Equal Justice Initiative found that nearly 4,000 black persons were killed by lynching between 1877 and 1950. 3,959 instances of racial terror, often carried out with little or no punishment to the murderers.

I thank God that things have changed. I am grateful that racial terrorism now takes our breath away, makes us sick. Things are better. But they aren't good enough. They aren't good enough!

In response to such tragedies as we've witnessed, I find myself ranting about injustice, raging against wrongs that need to be righted. In the end, though, it's pretty easy to rant and rage. Far harder is it to change my attitude, to root out all the injustice and wrong that is within me. And 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."

Oh, God. This is not just my country's problem. This is my problem.

These times in our history don't call for vilifying others. They call for personal repentance. I must think about my own thinking. I must get my own distorted vision corrected and learn to walk with new vision.

Some of my friends* are working to make things better in our society. I am proud of their work, but I must do more. I must work with them. I must stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters of all races. And I must realize that before I can stand strong, I need to keep bending my knee, repenting of my own wrong thinking, and confessing the sin that's present in my heart.

So I pray. Dear Lord, forgive me. Please keep changing my heart. Help me to understand that the fight against racism is my fight, and show me how to help.

*Looking for a ministry worth supporting? 
I can personally recommend Corner to Corner and LeadershipLINKS.
If you know of others, please list them in the comments.

Joining these link-ups:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Grace at Home No. 262


Hello, and welcome to this week's Grace at Home party!

This week I am in my own home with my fingers crossed that the air conditioning repairman will arrive soon. I thank God that we live in a multi-level home with more than one central air unit, but the unit for our main floor (which includes our living room, kitchen, eating areas, laundry, my husband's study, and my bedroom) is not working. Not good in North Carolina heat! But it's good for me to realize how thankful I should be for air conditioning.

Here are some links from last week's party that caught my eye:

Sweet Stacey from Poofing the Pillows gave us a tour of the kitchen in her new home. If you like to collect kitchen inspiration, you'll want to see this!


Debbie at Debbie-Dabble created a "beach tree" for late-summer decorating. You should see how she did it--great inspiration for how to decorate a tree. Debbie is just amazing--she must have
the busiest hands of anyone I know!


Tarah at Grandma's House DIY discovered a way to make her own perfume and she shared the simple recipe. Since I have all the ingredients on hand, I'd like to try this.


Jas from All That's Jas shared a recipe for hummus that looks so delicious and very easy. This girl knows her international foods!


Heather Bixler offered some great advice about prayer that I think you'll appreciate. Read her post "The Time to Pray Is Now."


A big 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.  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.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!





Thursday, August 10, 2017

Grace at Home No. 261


Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week's Grace at Home party! I'm so glad you're here.

Here are some features from last week's party that I thought you might enjoy.

Lindsay from Simply September shared tips for using inspirational quotes in home decor, plus she's offering dozens of free printables!


Danielle from A Sprinkle of Joy re-purposed the wooden tray that held a kids' puzzle into this cute serving tray. Read her post for all the details.


Leslie from Lamberts Lately used to be a first-grade teacher. She developed a printable planner for teachers, and she's giving it away on her blog. If you're a teacher or know a teacher, you'll be grateful for this.

Patti from Old Things New shared some beautiful thoughts about how focusing on God frees us from fear of what surrounds us. Yes!


As for me, I shared a glimpse into our new little place in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I'd love to know what you think!


A big 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.  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.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!






Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Our new mountain retreat


Several weeks ago I shared the news that we bought a condo in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This summer I've had the task of changing an unfurnished unit into a fully-functioning home away from home without completely breaking the bank. It's been a fun challenge, and I'm excited to show you some of my progress.

I should start, though, by saying that our favorite part of this mountain place is not what's inside our four walls. It's the setting, such as this scene on the main drive of our neighborhood:


Or this swimming hole that's at the end of one of our favorite hikes:


If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might have seen this photo of me hiking in that creek:


Being in the mountains is fun, y'all. But I promised to show you some photos of our place, so here goes.

The condo's layout is simple but smart. Half of the unit is devoted to three bedrooms and three bathrooms; the other half is the living/dining/kitchen area, all open to one another. In the middle is the entry hall.  Want to look around the living/dining/kitchen area with me?

When you approach the living area from the entry hall, here's the first look:



Then as you turn to the right, you see straight out to the deck:


To the far right is the kitchen:





Looking from the kitchen back toward the living area:


Then back toward the dining area, completing the circle:


Decorating a mountain place could easily go the rustic/cabin look, but that wasn't quite what I was wanting. My hope was to create a space that's casual and relaxed, with some rustic elements, but nothing that would compete with the beautiful spaces outside the windows, like this view from the dining area:


See what I mean?

The furnishings and decor and decor are a mix of things we already owned, new items, and new-to-us items. Since we did purchase some new items, we were able to have those delivered directly to the condo, which meant we didn't have to hire movers. So far, every time we've gone to the mountains, we've just taken a carload of things along with us, and the moving-in process has been pretty easy.

We still have a ways to go, but we're getting there! We've already found a painting for above the fireplace; what you see here is a picture that was once in my kitchen, then moved to my guest room. And we've decided that we need a bigger rug for the living room instead of this old one that was in my attic. The great things is that even while we continue to work on the space, it's already fully functional and ready to welcome guests.

What do you think? Want to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains?


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Grace at Home No. 260


Wow! Can you believe it's already August? The summer is winding down, and I for one have mixed emotions about that. I'm always glad to welcome Autumn with its cooler temperatures, but it's hard to say good-bye to the "lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer."

I'm grateful you're here for today's Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace. Here are a few links from last week's party that caught my eye.

Jen from Noting Grace showed us how she made this grain-sack striped ottoman.


Speaking of ottomans, Patti from Old Things New made this ottoman for her outdoor space. Actually, it serves as a bench, but it's actually her huge cooler all dressed up! Patti shares complete instructions for making your own.


Eileen from Just Measuring Up gave us a step-by-step tutorial for making this great lamp from a model train—and the best part is that you could use anything in place of the train. I think I see a custom lamp in my future!


Jas from All That's Jas shared a recipe for no-bake energy bites. Don't these look delicious? And the best part is that they're made from just a few ingredients that you may already have in your pantry.


Tehila from Women Abiding began a series on simplifying life, and she offers some excellent advice on the #1 location to spend more of your time. You'll be inspired by this post.


A big 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.  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.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!