“It is what it is.” Until it isn’t.

If 2020 had a phrase, that might be it. “It is what it is.”

I started hearing people use it in the summer, but it really hit me hard when President Trump used it to refer to COVID-19’s death toll in the U.S.

I hate this phrase. For starters, it’s obvious, like saying you found something in the last place you looked. (Why would you keep looking?)

But the main issue is that “it is what it is” offers no hope, no room for change or growth or plan B.

You can imagine my delight, then, as we listened to Ember Rising (from the Green Ember series) and I heard young, brave rabbit Picket console his sister with these words:

“It is what it is, but it is not what it shall be.”

Picket and his rabbit brethren look forward to life in the Mended Wood, even as they suffer greatly in the battle to bring forth the Mending. Doesn’t life feel like that these days? All creation groans (Romans 8:22), chafing against pain and injustice and death and despair that seems like it is winning.

“It is what it is, but it is not what it shall be.”

We’ve read the nativity narrative several times recently, as one does leading up to Christmas. What strikes me this year is a question: why didn’t anyone offer better help to this very pregnant young women?

Didn’t they have a single friend-of-a-friend they could call upon? A distant cousin? A fellow traveler who knew somebody with a spare bed? Could not even the innkeeper be moved to somehow accommodate this young couple in their hour of need?

Joseph and Mary inhabited an “it is what it is” world in a way that our modern, Western sensibilities don’t understand. Possessions were precious and harder to share when there was no Target down the road. Life was harsher, death nearer. It was what it was.

But as she lay in the straw and the muck, bringing God as Man into this world, Mary witnessed the embodiment of the coming “what it shall be.”

And it shall be peace.

And it shall be no more disease.

And it shall be no more tears.

And it shall be justice.

And it shall be good. Because He said so.

My Morning Affirmations

There’s a lot of woo-woo stuff out there about speaking things into being, that visualizing and claiming things can make them happen through the “law of attraction.”

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

On the one hand, this is BS: unlike God, we cannot simply speak things into existence. On the other hand, we are made like God and in his image. He made us little creators, so we are able to create. And when we think about and talk about something, we’re more likely to find ways to make it happen.

So affirmations are a load of hooey and hold potential. Clear as mud, right?

But I know that this is clear: speaking Scripture to ourselves is good and does not return void. So I wrote a list of things I want to cultivate in my heart and life, crafted the language to line up with verses that speak to each particular issue, and I read them out loud to myself each morning.

Matt and I were talking last night, and I used language from one of my affirmations about something I hope to become more and more. Slowly, these things are making their way into my heart by way of memory; they rolled off my tongue, and I could taste the fruit of reminding myself day by day of God’s Word in the context of my will and purpose.

So without further ado, here’s my list.

Daily Affirmations in Christ

  • I have the power of Christ in me. (Acts 1:8)
  • Therefore, I can put off the old man and run toward a new self: renewed in mind and created after the likeness of God. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
  • The Holy Spirit dwells in me, growing me in Christlikeness and love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • God gave me my circumstances: a researcher husband, three children to train and teach, a home to care for, a community to be part of. I do the good works He has given me. (Ephesians 2:10)
  • My children are a gift. I enjoy being with them and watching them grow. (Psalm 127:3)
  • I spend my time and our money in a way that honors God, meets our needs, and stewards our resources well for our family and the service of others. God has filled my life with good things. I can trust Him to satisfy me. (Psalm 103:5)
  • I eat well, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep to care for the body God has given me and keep it in ready service. (1 Timothy 4:8)
  • God has given me specific gifts and talents. I pursue them as my own, not looking left or right at what He has given others. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
  • My hope is in Christ, not breaks from my work. Therefore, I can always be joyful–particularly in my work (Romans 15:13)

These reminders focus my heart and mind for the day. They slow down my crazy monkey brain so I can focus on what God has put in front of me and called me to rather than any old thing that comes along–and that has been really helpful.

{2020 word count: 3,513}

Notes on “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”

Systemic racism is not new, but widespread discussion of it has been.

I keep writing and rewriting, unsure of what to say because I am a white person who grew up in an abundantly white, rural place who assumed that life where people didn’t all look the same was like Sesame Street. I struggle because I don’t understand.

Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? has been a helpful resource. Following are the quotes and notes I recorded back in May when I read the book.

On page 9, she offers a helpful example that gives us a working definition of systemic racism:

“In very concrete terms, it means that if a person of color is the victim of housing discrimination, the apartment that would otherwise have been rented to that person of color is still available for a White person. The White tenant is, knowingly or unknowingly, the beneficiary of racism, a system of advantage based on race. The unsuspecting tenant is not to blame for the prior discrimination, but she benefits from it anyway.”

On page 22, she quotes Audre Lorde, a Black writer:

“Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows ‘that is not me.’ In america [sic], this norm is usually defined as white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, christian [sic], and financially secure. It is within this mythical norm that the trappings of power reside within society. Those of us who stand outside that power often identify one way in which we are different, and we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression, forgetting other distortions around difference, so of which we ourselves may be practicing.”

On page 41, Tatum talks about a question from her four-year-old son about slavery–it was sooner than she had expected/wanted to address it, but she was glad to introduce the topic on her own terms. She goes on to explain that many Black students come back and tell her that their school only taught about Blackness in terms of slavery and portrayed the enslaved as “helpless victims–the rebellions and resistance offered by the enslaved Africans are rarely discussed.” She also mentions how White students and teachers are uncomfortable discussing race and its history in any capacity.

More on Black students and learning about race and history in the classroom from page 66:

“Time and again in research interviews I conducted, Black students lamented the absence of courses in African American history or literature at the high school level and indicated how significant this new learning was to them in college, how excited and affirmed they felt by this newfound knowledge.”

She points out the unfortunate reality that those Black young people who do not go on to college will likely miss out on these learning opportunities.

On page 102, she points out that in confronting racism, White people struggle with being seen as a member of a group rather than an individual, while people of color have had that experience their whole lives. On page 103, she says:

“The view of oneself as an individual is very compatible with the dominant ideology of rugged individualism and the American myth of meritocracy. Understanding racism as a system of advantage that structurally benefits Whites and disadvantages people of color on the basis of group membership threatens not only beliefs about society but also beliefs about one’s own accomplishments.”

She uses the example of one researcher who found that when people of color and women talked about systemic discrimination, “white men heard it as a condemnation that they somehow didn’t ‘deserve’ their position,” making their statements of frustration about themselves rather than the people voicing their concerns.

But there is hope. Listening goes a long way. Calling out bad behavior helps. Looking to examples of White people who have actually been helpful rather than trying to hurt or just missing the mark. This was the most helpful quote for me, personally, from page 109:

“My White students, who often comment about how depressing it is to study racism, typically say that the opportunity to talk with this ally gave them renewed hope. Through her example, they see that the role of the ally is not to help victims of racism, but to speak up against the systems of oppression and to challenge other Whites to do the same.”

It hurts to know that things aren’t as they should be. I’m thankful that God is sovereign over all, but that doesn’t excuse us from doing what we can to love our neighbors, to speak for the oppressed, to vote for candidates who will show care and respect for all. Jesus will be the one to dry every tear one day, but we can shoot for something closer to life on Sesame Street in the meantime.

{2020 word count (does not include quotes): 3,001}

October Links I Loved

One thing I have missed about blogging is having somewhere to share the pieces that made me think the most from the month–if only to come back myself and see what I was learning about at that time (beyond books). I just have three this month, but sometimes less is more, right?

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

Verity Podcast on motherhood + asceticism :: “In this episode we dive into the mommy wars: the toxic culture surrounding motherhood and its decisions. Specifically, this episode deals with asceticism and our view of suffering in motherhood. How does God sustain us in this season? Why do we act as if certain decisions are ‘holier’ than others? “

Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong :: “The second big lesson the medical establishment has learned and rejected over and over again is that weight and health are not perfect synonyms. Yes, nearly every population-level study finds that fat people have worse cardiovascular health than thin people. But individuals are not averages: Studies have found that anywhere from one-third to three-quarters of people classified as obese are metabolically healthy. They show no signs of elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance or high cholesterol. Meanwhile, about a quarter of non-overweight people are what epidemiologists call ‘the lean unhealthy.’”

Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin :: “Is it not baffling, then, that so many Christians seem to be sure that they are saving human lives and freedoms by treating as minimal the destructive effects of the spreading gangrene of high-profile, high-handed, culture-shaping sin?”

Oh! And I’ve been enjoying Chance the Rapper. His song “5 Year Plan” really hit me:

“There’s no time for impatience in your five-year plan
You got time for hesitation in your five-year plan
A lot of **** came at you in a five-year span
If you followed your flight plan, you’d be right here prayin’
Eyes closed, right now sayin’, Lord of Lords
I know you gave abundantly, even gave up your son for me
No need for sacrifice in my plans
And I love to say your name, it come from my diaphragm
I just had to scare ’em off and draw a line in the sand
Anything you gave to me, they couldn’t pry from my hands
Anything you gave to meI know it’s right for my brand

I am obviously not a rapper or famous, but these lyrics. Dang. Full song below (pearl clutchers, beware of language 😉).

Happy October, y’all!

On a decade of parenting

We plunked down a wad of cash on a slew of matching photo albums. That means I’ve been going through old mismatched Target clearance albums to pull out photos and printing what I need to bring us up to date.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It is really something to have so many moments from that season captured, both through photo and video. A lot happens over a decade, but a lot also stays the same.

For instance, my waist has never been small, even as I sigh and wish for long ago days that never existed.*

We ate a lot of peanut butter toast. And drive-thru ice cream cones.

People we hung out with regularly have fallen off of our radar, replaced by new people because somethings are for seasons and some are forever.

My kitchen was always a mess, and someone was always screaming or crying.

Just looking at the photos and videos makes me tired, 2015 especially.

Roger was born in January of that year. I had started homeschool with Claudia. Ellie, at 2.5, was big feelings and big messes. I was trying to work 20-30 hours a week from home without outside help. There was just always more to be done.

That mama was so tired. But fulfilled, too. It was hard and holy work that left her in sad and happy tears, all in the same day.

If I look too long, I start to pick it all apart. Where I messed up, fell short, could have done better.

But.

That mama laid the foundation we stand on today. That work bought our car in a season where saving would have otherwise been difficult, and it gave me the framework for time use that allowed me to write a book that I cared about, even if it never made a bestseller’s list.

All those meals that made our kitchen messy grew those kids into the towers of strength they are today–and all of them will be taller than me. They scramble and fry eggs; make macaroni and cheese, pancakes, sandwiches, quesadillas, little pizzas; prep fruits and vegetables; bake cakes; and talk through whether our meals are balanced, all because we spent so much time chopping and prepping and cooking and just being in the kitchen.

And when they sit down to that breakfast or lunch they prepared themselves on crazy days when we’re not all eating together? They bow their heads and thank God for their food, because they’ve lived that out three times a day every day of their lives.

Books matter now because they mattered then. Putting pen to paper with words or pictures or ideas matters now because it mattered then. Helping to clean up even though we’d rather not bother matters now because it mattered then.

After a hard hospital season and a pandemic that left me feeling unmoored, those exhaustion-inducing photos remind me that the job isn’t done, even if I’m constantly trying to look over the fence at what God gave someone else. Those baby faces changed so much, reminding me that no season is forever, nothing about our situation is changing, and I have an obligation to lean into where the Lord has put me.

So I’m thankful to that tired mama who persevered. She made me who I am today, and I would do well to honor her legacy by continuing (or going back to) putting in the full effort, just like she did.

{2020 word count: 2,527}


*It has taken me a long time to recognize that there’s only about an inch between the top of my hips and the bottom of my ribs. Sure, I could lose some weight…but it wouldn’t change my bones. Skinny waist just ain’t in the cards. So.much.angst could have been saved by recognizing the truth of my skeleton long ago…