life at two. a letter from his mommy.

august28 008

Dear Zane,

Happy Birthday to a boy who shines like the stars! Today we celebrate what came and changed with year two, and begin anticipating all that will come and change with year three. Happy, happy day to a boy who brings us so much laughter and delight as he soaks in the world around him. Our hearts keep soaring and melting as we’re continually blown away that you are ours, that we get you. Our gratitude for you, your life, the amazing way that you are knit together, flows deep.

This past year we got to experience you exit the little baby stage and literally step into the energetic – yet laid back, the sweet – yet determined, the playful – yet peaceful, the simple – yet detailed little toddler you’ve become. There’s something so innate, so mysterious, so deep in you that makes you all boy. From the banging to the jumping, from the semi-trucks to the clouds, from the animals to the tractors, from the outdoors to the cars and motorcycles and trains, you inherently gravitate towards things that define the masculine soul. We love that! We celebrate that!

We love that your cheeks and nose and tummy and toes are so cuddly and cute, and love how each of those parts love getting cuddled. There’s something so innocent and peaceful about your spirit. Maybe it’s the unique, raspy, sweet giggle that you possess, or perhaps the smile that radiates your insides, or that cute little voice that comes out in such a tender and spirited way, or maybe even your wispy, wavy, spirally hair that falls against your forehead. Whatever it is, we sense that you have a foundation that is both tender and calm, along with a quiet strength that allows you to remain secure and comfortable as you move into the world around you.

There’s this sister that utterly adores you and we marvel at the way she makes you laugh, even at the smallest and most silliest of things. Her eyes light up when you wake up from your nap and when we bring you out to the family room in the morning to greet her. She loves to teach you (we remind her that’s one of the jobs she gets to have) and entertain you and play hide-and-go-seek with you. She’s fascinated by all the things that make you smaller than her and all the things that make you different than her. She’s your helper for sure, teaching you how to talk and brush your teeth and go potty and how to hide from daddy and about TV and Talking Tom and “swiping” and jumping on the trampoline and ucky buggies and eating on the couch and dancing and headstands and how cool it is to explore the “big city.” You’ve figured out that you’re a brother of an intentional and assertive sister, and for sure there are times when her determination gets to you. You’ve found your straightforward way of saying “No, I don’t like that” by yelling, by pulling her locks of hair, and even at times, by finding the perfect place to sink your teeth into. We manage and distract, connect and correct, and then you show her in your own sweet way that you’re sorry by gently rubbing your hand on her arm. She’s got a lot of tricks and surprises awaiting you as you grow older, but for right now, she adores her little brother and she loves showing you how much with her hugs and kisses and smiles and jokes, and even by holding your hand. We’re so grateful for what you two share and pray that the connection between you will only grow and deepen as you play and enjoy and complement one another.

We are utterly grateful for all the ways you remind us of how good it is to live life with wonder and mystery, awake and enlightened. We so believe in you…how loveable you are, how capable you are. We are humbled by the ways that we are able to speak truth into your soul, and by how you mirror the amazing creativity and passionate love of Jesus. May your heart remain soft and open to his love, and may we remain open to how he shows his love through you.

Love to you, Boo! Happy Birthday!

Love, Mommy

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racism: part 2

MLK Silence

Racism…it’s a word that provokes a lot of emotion.

For some, power.
For some, denial.
For some, fear.
For some, truth.

Racism is defined as, “actions, practices, or beliefs that reflect the racial worldview: the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races.” This ideology entails the belief that members of a race share a set of characteristic traits, abilities, or qualities, that traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral characteristics are inherited, and that this inheritance means that races can be ranked as innately superior or inferior to others.” (Wikipedia)

Simply, “discrimination or prejudice + power.”

Some of us have power.
All of us have discriminated.

Let me see if I can flesh this out…

stereotype = generalization
prejudice = belief
discrimination = action

Here’s an example:

All teenagers are rowdy. (stereotype)
All teenagers are rowdy; therefore, they will steal. (prejudice)
All teenagers are rowdy; therefore, they will steal; so, I will not allow them into my store. (discrimination)

Now, try adding skin color.

In America, the first 346 years of our country’s beginnings were founded on, established with, and built on a belief that “people of color” were less than “White” people. That does something to the American mind and heart. We get impacted, we get shaped – intentionally and unintentionally – by our stories.

Racism is part of America’s story.

America’s Timeline:

1492 – Columbus sailed the ocean blue

1619 – 1st slaves brought to America

1787 – legalized slavery and discrimination (Constitution of the U.S. held that Black persons were only 3/5 human)

1865 – end of “legal” slavery (Emancipation Proclamation/13th Amendment)

1882 – Chinese denied citizenship

1896 – Separate but Equal made law (Plessy vs. Ferguson)

1954 – Separate but Equal law overturned (Brown vs. Board of Education)

1965 – Civil Rights Act

What does this say about America?

There were 346 years of legalized slavery and/or discrimination.
There have been 48 years of legalized equality.

That’s stunning.
That shapes us.
That’s part of America’s story, our story.

Repetition…it’s powerful.

If you were shown a picture of a “golden arch,” what restaurant would come to your mind?
If you were asked what brand of clothing wears a “swoosh,” what would you say?
If you were asked what is the BEST macaroni and cheese? Which would you choose?

Someone, somewhere, somehow taught you this…and I bet you didn’t even know it was happening.

Images…they’re vivid and piercing and sustaining.
What was shown to us, what was told to us, what we experienced…it lingers.

Movies, TV shows, commercials, music, history books, brands, logos…they get seared into our brains. That’s the goal, right? People’s words and attitudes and biases and actions…they teach us. There’s intent, right? But we, have a choice, of what to do with the images and information and words and insight and truths that we’re given. Right?

Maybe it’s important to think about what we’ve been taught. Maybe we need to take some time evaluating what was offered to us, forced on us, secretly leaked into us. And then ask ourselves what we’ve done with it. Dismissed it? Digested it? Agreed with it? Offered it to someone else?

We’ve been shaped, we are shaping…our children, our co-workers, our Facebook friends, our churches, our systems. Will we have the courage to ask ourselves, the systems we find ourselves in, the relationships we play in, how we are growing, how we are reconciling, how we are…moving? Forward? Towards good, better, shalom?

Many of us have heard the saying, “The only thing we have control over is our decision, our choices.” So, whether the information above is new, old, unimportant, challenging or empowering, I want to invite you to ask yourselves what you’ve done with it, what you will do with it? Now. Because it’s right in front of you. Would you be willing to take a step? Towards it? In it?

I share this belief that God has created us for movement. So, I encourage you to allow yourselves to be moved, stirred, jostled, uprooted. And then, ask your Creator, our Creator, “What would you invite me to do with this information, this history, my voice?”

Because the skin you’re in is good. How will you choose to use it?

 

racism: part 1

The way we look…it’s so hard not to judge, be critical of, what we look like. It’s like we have this sense, this feeling, deep down, that what we image to the world isn’t good enough. Our hair and eyes and nose and lips, our arms and waist and legs and hips…they’re all created in the image of God, right? Then why, why, why do we forever spend time wishing they clung to our bodies differently, more beautifully, like the ones we see behind storefront glass and billboards and TV? Is there someone somewhere with the ultimate body and skin type and height out there, or up there, sending us subliminal messages about who’s in and who’s out?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had people ask me, “What are you?” Weird. Awkward. Rude. Ignorant? I always knew that what they were searching for is to know what ethnicity my features reflected. So, I would always respond with, “I’m Korean.” I’ll totally admit that there were a few feisty times that I responded with, “What are you? I’m a person, a girl.” I loved catching people off guard. The random comments continued as people willingly shared with me how I reminded them of other Asian people and told me which of my features mirrored the Japanese, Chinese or Koreans. And then, there was that one time, when someone I had just met asked me if I knew a Korean girl in Michigan, and as I naively tried to connect how I knew her, he said, “Oh, I just thought that you would know her because she’s Korean too.” Seriously…that happened. And then, I have lots of stories about people assuming that I know karate or kung fu and telling me what good English I speak. I’ve always thanked them and let them know I’ve been working on it for 30+ years. And then, there have been those shocking times when good intentioned people have said, “Well, at least you’re not full blown Korean.” I guess to look more Asian would be a bad thing.

It’s been tiring to have people question and comment on and evaluate my appearance…all because I look different than they do.

Funny how we live in a country that’s so interested, so naïve, and in some places, so homogeneous that we think a person of color is so rare that we would feel the need to ask him/her, “What are you?”

I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve felt hurt, and even angry.

And then, I began learning how America found herself in these shoes. These shiny, better shoes that shouted privilege and power for almost 350 years (Did you know that the first slaves were brought to America in 1619?). For some, knowingly. For others, ignorantly. And, just for the record, I’ve been in these shoes. I’ve misused my privilege, my power. But now, years later, I hope to use my experience, my privilege, my face, my voice…for good.

So, like most growth and change and paradigm shifts, it began with awareness…awareness of what moments with people, with people of color, were significant, were defining, which meant that most likely, I had some emotion attached to that experience.

For me, my first memories of people of color involved experiences like, “Lock your doors. We’re going through the bad part of town.” Or, seeing a black man sitting on a curb, passed out, dirty, poor. Or, seeing an Asian woman aggressively and angrily shouting words that sounded like a mix between Chinese and English to a cook in a kitchen. Or, a Mexican family in the heat of the night all piled on a porch with all their kids running through the streets, unattended and wild. Or, an Arab man with a keffiyeh on his head walking mysteriously through the mall. And, even sometimes, on the TV, on the news, when time after time a person of color is being highlighted for a crime that he may or may not have committed. I remember these moments. My world? It consisted of almost all White people. The people of color I saw were distant, helpless, stuck out, bad.

Images: they’re vivid and piercing and sustaining.

Words: they’re descriptive and powerful and stick.

What was shown to us, what was told to us, what we experienced…it lingers.

What we see, what we say, what we do…it shapes us. It shapes how we view others…”them.”

Did you know that by age 3 there is already an awareness of racial difference? And by age 10, 90% of attitudes towards other ethnicities are set? That’s either a lot of significant emotional experiences with people of color or a few really powerful ones. Whatever way you look at it, the human mind and heart get shaped, deeply, by the experiences we have with people of color. If we’ve had more negative experiences with people of color than positive experiences, we will need other powerful experiences to change the power of those first memories.

For me in my journey, this shift began with listening…listening to stories shared by people of color – their hurt, their suffering, their pain, the misunderstanding, the violence, the injustice, the inequality – and believing them. It’s been reading books like Healing Racism in America by Nathan Rutstein. It’s been watching films like, Ethnic Notions (California Newsreel) and Shadow of Hate (Charles Guggenheim) and Blue Eyed (California Newsreel) and Color of Fear (Stir Fry Productions) and Crash (Paul Haggis). It’s been attending Institutes for Healing Racism. It’s been understanding more of how God calls us to love…everyone, no matter what color skin they may wear. These experiences have all been a part of my awareness, my learning, my recovery…of seeing people as human, not less than human. And, at the same time, hearing my own voice (and God’s voice) tell myself that what I look like is good, is beautiful, is enough. And somehow, in gracious ways, asking for others to see me, my Asian features, as needed, as human.

Perhaps we could start the conversation with, “Who are you?” instead of “What are you?”

So, if you find yourself stepping into a culture that values sameness, may your heart begin to value different-ness. I have this belief, this hope, that stepping into different experiences and crowds and cultures and parts of town could bring us perspective, relationship, love, wholeness…more of Jesus.

Because when I think about Jesus having a dinner party, I’m pretty sure that there would be a place at the table for everyone.