The Pull of Home

June 28, 2017

We moved to a new town the summer before I began fourth grade. A shy bookworm, I had stick-straight blonde hair down to my rear, 90s bangs, and an affinity for wearing a Mickey Mouse tunic and leggings. It was summer, so without school to help me meet other kids, I grabbed my trusty Huffy bike and took to the roads instead. Up and down the streets I rode, hair flying in the wind, as I learned my new home. One by one, I counted the blocks and memorized the streets. Sibley. Marshall. Holcombe. Each day, the map in my mind expanded.

It wasn't long before I was looking at Lisa's hamsters, or playing with Rachel from across the street, or buying slushies from Handi Stop and daring my friends and I to suck them down in Lauren's piping-hot attic until we could no longer stand the heat.

I didn't travel far, really, no more than a mile radius in all. But slowly as I learned the streets and the people who lived on them, and began to measure the distance to friends in city blocks, the town became home.

Later, when I moved from the south side of town to the north side, I fell into my old bike-riding routine. Sara was two blocks away, Shayna a short distance the other way, Kelsie up past the schools. Familiarity bred comfort, and that became home.

Unified Not Uniform

June 13, 2017

This morning we had family devotions with our kids and talked about the day of Pentecost from Acts 2. Although many things were discussed, one main theme that we focused on was how when the Holy Spirit came, the believers who were there began to speak in all the different languages of people that could be found throughout the city.

How amazed the people were to hear about the hope of Christ in their native language. It showed God’s design that all men, of every background, would be drawn to him.

We then discussed our recent move to our new neighborhood, right in the heart of our city, and why we believe God asked us to move here. We shared with our kids that although our last neighborhood was amazing (we still love and miss our old neighbors immensely!), we felt God was asking us to go to a place where diversity amongst the people living there was paramount.

My husband finished our morning by reminding our kids, “as believers in Jesus we are unified in our faith, but we are not uniform. God is calling all men to himself regardless of age, race, social class, or language. That’s why we’re here, to share the love of God with others who don’t look or act or even think like us.”

What We Have in Common

June 8, 2017

Shrieking with delight, the teenage girls chased each other around the community splash pad. Drops of water glistened on their faces and soaked their clothing. As one girl passed me, we caught eyes and exchanged smiles, her face lit with joy. Bemused, I watched as they playfully jabbed at each other, words volleying back and forth in a dizzying mix of English and Somali.

Off to the side, I watched my own girls twirl around the splash pad, climbing the spiderwebbed playground toys and spinning round and round. In their faces, I saw the same joy reflected.
Later that day, as Elise and I were sitting together quietly, we had a moment to talk more about the morning. I asked her if she had enjoyed the splash pad, and she waxed eloquent about the other children she played with and how much fun she had.

“Those teenagers sure looked like they were having fun, didn’t they?” I asked. She nodded, then paused to ask what they were wearing on their heads. I matter-of-factly told her that sometimes, people with other religions or cultures have different traditions than we do, and that their head scarf is something that is a tradition for their religion. I asked her if anyone at her school wore a similar headcovering, and she told me that they didn’t but that some of the other moms did.

In her eyes, I saw nothing but acceptance. And it occurred to me, in the midst of our country’s highly-charged political and cultural issues, how much of what my daughter learns about the world is through me.

As a parent, I think it’s one my greatest challenges and privileges. Of all my children, my oldest has the unique ability to believe that everyone is exactly like her. For instance, there’s a little girl with special needs that is one of her favorite kids to play with at church. Unlike some of the other children, Elise doesn’t mind the frequent hugs and touches the little girl bestows; when you see the two of them together, they are usually laughing uproariously or racing around the gym. One day after church, one of the leaders approached me to tell me that Elise doesn’t always understand the idea of giving in when her friend wants the same coloring page she does. Although I promised the leader I would speak to Elise, I found myself struggling to communicate that idea to her after church.

“She doesn’t see any ‘difference,’” my husband whispered to me. And it’s true. Her best friend at school has an aide with her all day who helps her with tasks, and Elise has no idea why. Elise’s strength is the tenderness of her heart; she loves with abandon. She looks at others and sees commonalities, not differences. And I wonder: How, as a mom, am I encouraging that strength? How can I encourage her to engage the complexities of the world with compassion and sensitivity?

But what I've come to realize is this: My children don't need me to have all the answers. They need me to show them that the lens through which they view the world should be the same one Jesus had: Filled with mercy, compassion, and love for God's unique creation. Respect for others and for the world we live in. And, above all, grace that covers.

Because at the end of the day, I want to teach them about the world, yes. But I want them to love God so much more that that consideration outweighs all other considerations.

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