Was I a Racist in My Own Home?

Do you see yourself as a racist?

Probably not. You certainly hope not. Right? Me too.

You know I’m probably going to say something like “we are more racist than we like to think.” Yep, I am. But then, if we’re honest, that’s no surprise. Don’t we all prefer to hang with people just like us? People who look, talk, and smell the ways we prefer. But that’s not really being racist, is it?

The problem comes when we want to see people become just like us. It’s not limited to races. This desire nests in anything that defines us: our faith, our political alignment, our parenting styles, and even our economic status. In our heads we know that if everyone else was just like us, the world would be grossly imbalanced. But deep inside we actually believe differently.

This is evidenced in our families, as well—where our children were born into a culture different from ours. We know it will take time, but hiding deep in our hearts, is the expectation that they’ll eventually start thinking and behaving like we do. And so we either ignore, downplay, or try to root out the impact of their beginnings. It’s hard enough to transplant them into our families. But let me tell you …

August 13 Roots

Somehow we have to learn to be at home with these little people from different places in the world.

It took me several years to come to the realization that my children would never turn into “mini me’s”. How I wished I had arrived at this understanding a lot sooner.

The following are specific ways that helped me learned to embrace our differences:

1. We regularly celebrated their culture of origin.

On the annual celebration of their adoption day we prepared Russian foods: borscht, pierogies, kielbasa, blini, and other fun foods. We also purchased Russian candy and kvas (a drink I can’t stand but my kids love) from a nearby Ukrainian store.

Aug 13 borscht

2. We talked positively, redemptively about their biological parents.

I wanted my children to feel a connection to their parents, and have a sense of place and purpose in this world. I didn’t want them to go through life bitter at their parents. God’s forgiveness is available for every single human. Opportunities to change and live in His grace are available even to those who’ve hurt us the most.

3. I had to grieve the children I never got.

I didn’t ever want to be bitter that God had not enabled me to have biological children, so I didn’t let myself grieve very deeply. But one day, after about four or five years of parenting, I had to face the fact that I would never have a child who looked like me, walked, laughed, or talked like me. It took another three or four years to realize that because my adopted children would never become a reflection of me, I needed to have a funeral in my head and lay these children of my dreams to rest.

4. I had to release my adoptive children to be Russians living in America.

It probably wasn’t until our oldest had lived on his own for a year or so, that I realized I had to allow each child to determine what parts of their Russian identity and what parts of their American/Johnson identity they wanted to claim for themselves.

5. I didn’t have to change who I was and become like them.

It was a hard tension to live with, but in time I came to a peace that my children were going to operate according to a very different set of values than mine. Instead of focusing on how we differed, I chose to focus on what we had in common. For several years I remember thinking the ties that bound us were single thread thin. But that’s where I started, and in time those cords have grown thicker.

I think we all have a subconscious longing for others to be just like us.

Frankly, I suspect this indicates we actually like who we are. But, it also an indicates that we’re not sure we’re suppose to. And so we look to the choices others around us make to affirm that we’re worth liking.

Aug 13 Mirror
Photo by Septian simon on Unsplash

Maybe the racism that hides deep inside of us is something we need to take an honest look at. Partly so we can learn to accept people for who they are. But more importantly so we can celebrate who we are. I strongly believe that before we can accept others, we have to start with ourselves. Maybe that’s why the Bible records in it’s very first chapter that …

God created man in His own image
(Genesis 1:27, NASB).

We are little representations of God Himself.

Don’t you think that’s something to appreciate? Something to show off?

And if God’s image is coded into our own DNA, it’s keyed into our children’s as well. It’s displayed in every single person. How fun would it be to start looking for the evidence of the Creator built into every life? What kind of difference would it make in our families if we made a daily practice of deciphering the expressed character of God in each member?

Something I should have done, and I suggest you do, is keep a journal of the things you appreciate about each child (and your spouse, or anyone you have a hard time liking). This will not only keep your focus positive, it will usher you into genuine worship of the Father.

Souvenirs for the Soul: Wild Horses Are Not Lone Rangers

You don’t want to be out there after dark. It turns pitch black and there’re no street lights to guide you back to town.

Homeschooling afforded us some far-reaching field trips.

Some people call them family vacations. But since we traveled during the fall—after the heat settled down, the mosquitoes were hopefully dead, and the masses of other families were back home with their kids tucked away in public/private schools—and since I made sure our kids wrote in their journals, I choose to call them field trips.

In 2001, we planned a month-long trip, visiting several national parks and other western venues. To prepare for this adventure we started the basic academic subjects in early August. Additionally, I ordered travel magazines from the states we would visit. I assigned each of our children to pick an attraction for us to visit. Then they had to research and “teach” us about that place: why it was worth visiting, its history and unique features, and how should we prepare (special shoes, safety measures, precautions).

We learned about Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, and … I can’t remember … maybe Bryce Canyon. But our oldest wanted to us to hunt down wild horses deep in the desert outside Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Did you know wild horses don’t roam alone?

They live in one of two types of herds: a stallion and his harem and foals, or a group of bachelors. (I can just imagine how a bunch of would-be harem owners behave.)

So in Wyoming, we set out on a 23-mile trek, in the heat of a sunny afternoon, carefully traversing dirt roads, while scanning the terrain in search of a herd. Several miles into the trip we spotted one not far off the road. We got as close as we respectfully could, stopped our van, and waited.

In a matter of seconds we knew who the lead mare was—the one that took charge when we drove up. She and a few others trotted across the road in front of us, while she called for the others to follow. We could literally hear her encouragement. It seemed to take a little convincing, but they all eventually crossed over and kept on going—their long tails blowing in the breeze.

We’d been to Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone by this point, but nothing captured my breath like these beautiful creatures. Strong, determined, untethered owners of free-range.

This experience gave me a new understanding of what it means to be “wild.”

You can’t just do what you want, how you want, when you want. Humans, like horses, are meant to live in community. And we are all meant to follow a leader. One leader.

Now this isn’t a lesson on leadership. No, it’s a lesson about the fact that we can be beautifully wild, but we still live in order with others. We need each other. Alone we die; together we thrive. The only way to get along is by refusing to fight for the head spot, and instead regularly choosing to submit to that head.

And who is that head? Have you guessed it yet? It’s not Mom. It’s not even Dad. And it’s never, ever the kids.

God is our Head.

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
(Colossians 1:18, NASB)

July 17 Hearts Moving toward Christ

For our wedding announcements Bob made the design in the above photo. It symbolizes two hearts, uniting into one. The only way for that union to happen is as each of us move toward Jesus (the cross). If one of us chooses to live outside the lordship of Christ, our unity will weaken. But as long as we continued to grow closer to God, we will automatically grow closer to each other.

This is true in all our relationships. Now, I know our children don’t understand how to live under Christ as their head. It’s a hard concept for any of us to grasp. But, I do know this: the best way to parent is to surrender our parenting to the Father.

July 17 Wild Side

How do we do this?

I’m curious what you would say. How do you as a mom surrender to God practically?

For me, it took a lot of listening. Getting past my emotions, be willing to set aside my agenda, and listening. It meant measuring my words, actions, reactions, methods of discipline, and expressions of love against God’s word. It meant apologizing when I needed to, and sometimes adjusting the consequences I had handed out in the middle of a hot and messy moment. And it meant redefining my expectations.

So, trapped and restrained mom, do you long to run wild?

You can. As long as you remember wild does not mean going solo. You need to surround yourself with others like-minded, common-experienced moms. And more importantly, you need to know and follow the voice of the great Head.

Would You Like a Refill?

 

cropped-write-31-days-cover.png

Sometimes when you sip a cup of warmth, the contents can turn a bit tepid. So how about a top-off of this week’s cups? It’s Thursday, the day I re-serve the warmth shared throughout the previous six days of the Write 31 Days challenge. That way if you missed anything, or simply want a refill, the offerings are here for your enjoyment.

And for those who drink til the last drop, you’ll find a link to a generous offer from DaySpring. (DaySpring, the Christian branch of Hallmark, is an official sponsor of Write31Days. They have something very special for the faithful readers of our posts. They are saying thank you for me in a way I can’t.) But you only have one day left to respond—deadline is Oct 28.

oct-27-warmth-refilled

Feel free to take your time soaking in the warmth of God’s graciousness, served in my little nook of the world. There’s nothing better than enjoying a cup with a friend, so feel free to take a seat and share your heart. My cup is warm but my heart is warmer—eager to hear your thoughts.


Friday, Oct 21, defined the flavor of true humility.

oct-21-humility-is-simply

Humility for a Heart Enslaved by Pride


Saturday, Oct 22, served the reminder of where to place legitimate expectations.

oct-22-expectations

Reality for a Heart with Faulty Expectations


Sunday, Oct 23, offered hope for the recognition we desire.

oct-23-he-sees2

Recognition for a Heart Overlooked


Monday, Oct 24, placed unforgiveness on the table so we could examine what it really means.

oct-24-forgiveness

Freedom from a Heart of Unforgiveness


Tuesday, Oct 25, offered an assurance that sometimes walls are necessary (and I’m not talking about geographical walls).

oct-25-2-sometimes-walls

Assurance for a Heart Protected


And, Wednesday, Oct 26, served a reminder of who’s really in charge

oct-26-beauty-in-disorder

A Pry Bar for a Heart Clutching


Now for that offer. DaySpring is an official supporter of Write31Days and they are offering our readers a chance for a $100 gift certificate. $100! That’s awesome! So click the link and it will take you to the special signup page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to use the Rafflecopter giveaway widget before October 28th. If you’re the winner DaySpring will contact you directly.


I can’t believe there are only four days left of this challenge! Thank you for being a dear friend and reading the messages God has burned into my soul during the years I had kids at home. I pray that you are encouraged and that those spots of your own heart that have grown cold, have been warmed by God’s grace and faithfulness.

I will resume my weekly blog again on Monday, November 7th. November! Oh my how this year has flown by. But, I’ve more material to share and a few surprises in store. So stay tuned.

Reality for a Heart with Faulty Expectations

cropped-write-31-days-cover.png

“I keep waiting for the honeymoon to end!” I could feel her glow over the phone as I concluded my interview with the reference our adoption agency had given me.

Six months later I wondered, what honeymoon? Never for a single moment did it show its face.

Frankly, I expected things to be tough—that is for the first several months. But I figured it would eventually get better. Our kids would learn to trust; our love would heal their wounds; and other than typical childhood issues, we’d emerge as a warm and cozy family.

What was I thinking?

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

What does it tell you when a family can’t hold onto their offspring? What does it mean when a county is willing to sell her children? What does it do to the heart of a child, not to mention the brain, when everything that felt secure is ripped from their hands? Do we really think they’re going to trust us so easily, if ever? Do we truly believe they can grasp our love? Is it realistic to expect they know how to integrate into a family?

Is it right to expect ourselves to have the power to melt all and mend all? No! I can tell you right here and now, that power is completely out of our hands. It doesn’t matter what we’ve studied (though I recommend study all you can), how selflessly we give, how firmly we stand, or how sweetly we love. We will never be enough.

So am I saying, lower our expectations? Yes, I am. Let go of expecting our SAFE children to look like us. It isn’t going to happen. Equally, we need to relax the demands we place on ourselves.

oct-22-expectations

So what about the promise: Train up a child in the way which he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV)? First of all, many times people misinterpret this verse. But, I can also say that once my kids hit their mid to late twenties, I started seeing this promise fulfilled. The evidence of our work and love in their lives is starting to show up all over the place.

Guess what? We’re finally getting our honeymoon and it is sweeeeet! Bitter moments still pop up and I have to revisit the lessons I’ve learned over the years—especially about backing up and letting God do the needed work. But those moments pass and the sweetness returns.

So here are a few promises that held me steady over the years.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NKJV)

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4, NKJV)

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, NIV)

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9, NKJV)

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. (Psalm 36:5, NIV)

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23, NKJV)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9, NKJV)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalm 34:18, NIV)