Celebrating Color

I'm thrilled to have Christina here with us today. I know that you'll love this post as much as I did, and I hope you'll take the time to share and comment at the end!

Christina is a lifestyle blogger, curating a raw and positive feed at Hugs and Lattes. She lives in East, TN with her new husband, Pai. Christina loves to spend her free time reading (she started a book club recently, yay!), Netflix binging, and cooking up new dishes. 

We need to see color. We need to celebrate color.

I didn't grow up thinking white people were better than any other race, but I never grew up around anyone who wasn't white. When I was in middle school, I discovered the Fresh Prince of Bel air and crushed hard on Will Smith. In high school I befriended the two black guys in my high school. One of whom reminded me of Will Smith. I knew they were black, but I didn't think anything else of it. I'm sure the words, "I don't see color" fell out of my mouth a few times.

It wasn't until I was in college and started dating my now-husband that I realized how many things I had done in ignorance could be perceived as racist. When my husband, Pai, and I started dating, I had that safe place to ask the ignorant questions. I learned about systematic racism, I learned about the white savior complex. I learned that saying "I don't see color" whitewashes the incredible experience and story each person of color carries.

My parent weren't the least surprised when I called home one early spring day to tell them I was going on a date, and the guy I met was from a country in Africa. In fact, my dad once said, "Christina, I would be surprised if you marry a Caucasian."

I had one of those moments on my first date with Pai - I knew we were going to get married. (He did not have that moment until several months later.)

Pai and I live in East Tennessee. We have more than one stoplight, so we aren't pure rural Appalachia, and we are lucky enough to live in a college town that does have quite a bit of diversity. I never knew how large the African community was in our area until he and I started dating. I guess I just never noticed.

Nonetheless, I could still feel the eyes. A couple of times I noticed (mostly from the older generation) people staring at us as we walked, hand in hand. And in my lack of graciousness, would look them dead in the eye as I held on tighter to my handsome chocolate man. Once, when we went home to see my family, I noticed someone staring at us as we were stopped next to each other at the stoplight. I turned to Pai and said, "Kiss me" and then made sure I kissed him passionately. He thought I was being sweet. I was being rebellious against the ill-conceived notions that races shouldn't mix.

I don't necessarily recommend that route. It's rooted in pride, and while I am proud to stand next to, and be affiliated with my husband and his family, it is definitely not the most Christ-like approach. Pai is much more gracious in his responses.

Just last month we stopped at a McDonald's in South Carolina to use the restroom and grab a cup of iced coffee to fuel us on a road trip. I was leaned against Pai while waiting in line. There was a man in the back of the restaurant who stared at us until Pai looked his way, to which Pai smiled and waved and the man slowly shook his head in disgust. I promptly turned around and shot fire darts from my eye. I imagined what I would say if I worked up the nerve to confront him. I never did. I'm more talk than game.

But Pai is compassionate. He speaks the truth in love and he is gracious towards those who don't understand or disagree. It's something he has had to accept and learn growing up in America. He told me that when they first moved from Zimbabwe to the United States, as he and his brothers became pre-teens and teenagers, their dad sat them down, making them aware that in the United States, they were more likely to receive prejudice, so they needed to make sure they carried themselves well, dressed well, were respectful at all times to authority figures, etc.

As parents, of course, we would tell our children this anyway: "Be respectful, and carry yourself well. Don't tarnish the family name!" But for the minority groups in America, it's more than tarnishing the family name, it's survival. Over the past several years, through conversation with Pai, reading and listening to accounts from other moms of African-American, Latino, or biracial children, I find this is something that is stressed more so to children who do not look predominately white.

So what can we change? I've written from my hopeful millennial perspective about why it is important that we support our friends trying to use their voice.

But how do we support our black brothers and sisters?
We need to see color. We need to celebrate color.

We see color. We celebrate color.

When I am home alone with Pai, I sometimes forget that we don't look like each other. It's in those moments where I'm getting ready and he comes up behind me and wraps his arms around me that I see our colors contrast. When we are lying down, and my arm lays against his and he says, "Oh my gosh your arm is translucent!" I remember that he is black and I am white. I see and bask in the color of his dark skin. It is, after all, one of the things I am most attracted to in him- aside from his compassion, and the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles, and the way his heart seeks to right social injustices. I celebrate his dark brown skin because it carries his heritage. He is a Zimbabwean who still speaks in his native tongue when he is with family. His Shona name is a badge of his culture. The way he thinks and sees the world has been shaped by growing up in two different worlds - a third culture kid.

I want to say that our relationship is more than the colors we reflect, but in a sense, our relationship is the colors we reflect. When you see a married couple who are both white, you don't automatically think, "Oh, I bet they have a lot of compromising they have to do." (Which, by the way, is still totally untrue, as you married people know.) But when you see my husband, me, and read our incredibly long (but phonetic) last name, you probably wonder how it works.

And here is how it works: We love hard. We listen well. We learn from each other. We celebrate our differences, and embrace the cultures and traditions we each grew up with.

For instance, in my mind, I had a perfect American wedding planned out. In reality, our families threw the biggest Zimbabwean-American wedding anyone has ever seen. Our dance floor was packed the entire time, whether Zimbabwean, South African, or American music was playing. Our guests had their choice of Zimbabwean food: sadza (a cornmeal patty), collard greens, and beef stew, or my favorite American food: chili and potato soup. Our friend surprised us with a communion meditation that was given in both English and Shona.

If I didn't embrace who Pai is and where he is from, I would miss out on the blessing of finding a new piece of the world. If I didn't ask questions and learn, I wouldn't fully be able to say I know my husband. It is important to me that our relationship's foundation is first of all on the word of God, and secondly on celebrating who we are.

We need to see color. We need to celebrate color.

Before I close, I will leave you with one of my favorite poems from Nayirah Waheed,

trust anyone
who says
they do not see color.
this means
to them
you are invisible.

For more thoughts on our interracial relationship, check out this post as well.

Feel free to follow along with Christina here:

 photo Sage - Signature_zpsz8vd3ffc.png


Being Intentional in Your Neighborhood

Something that has been on our heart a lot lately is reaching our neighborhood. Although we have been in the neighborhood since August of 2013, we barely knew any of our neighbors until recently. One of the goals of our missional community (which we host in our home) is to be more missional in the neighborhood. This includes hosting a neighborhood party each quarter. This has encouraged us to be really intentional about trying to make more connections and serve people well.

When I was first trying to explore options for reaching out to people in our neighborhood, I couldn't find a lot on the topic. We're both huge introverts and although we are pretty friendly and hospitable, I had no idea where to start (without totally freaking people out). However, through trial and error over the last six months or so, we have begun to make some headway in our neighborhood. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things that have worked well for us.

I do want to point out that the goal here is not just to be friendly, but to be missional. To serve and love on our neighbors in the way that God has served and loved us.

How we have been more intentional in our neighborhood:
1) We started a Facebook group for the neighborhood. This was a really easy way to start getting people connected. We created a group and then made some small fliers to pass out to the homes in the neighborhood. This has been really successful. There are about 100 homes in our area, and nearly 50 people have joined the group. So far, the group has been used to: find a home for a lost kitty, connect a single dad with other parents in the neighborhood, and begin coordination on our annual neighborhood garage sale. I will say that this was only intended to be a starting place and to facilitate further face-to-face contacts.

2) Increasing visibility. We have done a few things to increase our presence in the neighborhood. I already walk our dog a lot, so I have been trying to keep this up, especially since the weather is getting nicer. We also bought patio furniture for our front patio and have been trying to eat dinner out front more often.

3) Serve. Last December, we threw a neighborhood party. This was close to Christmas, the weather was cold, and it was before we created the Facebook group. Only a few households came but it was still a great way to serve our neighbors.

For Easter this year, I made goodie bags for kids and dogs in the neighborhood. This was really easy and I don't think I spent more than $40 to make nearly 40 bags total. I posted about them on our Facebook page asking who would like them. This allowed us to personally bring the bags to our neighbors and get to meet them face to face. I think we've now met nearly a dozen of our neighbors that we didn't know before.

We recently had some neighbors move in across the street from us. To welcome them, we brought over some cookies and dog bones (we noticed they had dogs). We've already had them over for lunch since meeting them and are looking forward to getting to know them better.

Last, we are planning another party for next month and we're hoping that since the weather will be nicer and we have been able to give a little more warning via the Facebook page, that we will have a better turnout.

Since doing these things, we have noticed a huge shift in the posture of our neighborhood and we are super excited. We've noticed more visibility of people generally, people intentionally talking to each other while out walking, more friendly waves as people drive by, and so on. We aren't taking credit for this but are thrilled nonetheless!

How do you practice intentionality in your own neighborhood? What has worked well and what hasn't?

 photo Sage - Signature_zpsz8vd3ffc.png


2017 Reading Challenge Update IV

I am currently participating in the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. Throughout the year, I am hoping to do monthly(-ish) updates on my progress. This is update FOUR for the year so far. Currently, I am reading about 4 books at once (not all of which fit the challenge prompts), so the progress appears lackluster but I promise I am reading! Now that I'm starting to get to that uncomfortable stage of pregnancy, I expect many more nights on the couch with a good book (or four). I think I have reading ADD.....

2017 Reading Challenge
A book recommended by a librarian:
A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
A book of letters: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
An audiobook: Prodigal God by Tim Keller (Completed in February; 3/5 stars)
A book by a person of color: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly 
A book with one of the four seasons in the title: My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir
A book that is a story within a story:
A book with multiple authors:
An espionage thriller:
A book with a cat on the cover: A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (Completed in March;  4/5 stars)
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling
A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read (horror): The Teacher by Katerina Diamond
A book by or about a person who has a disability: El Deafo by Cece Bell
A book involving travel:
A book with a subtitle: Banished: Surviving my years in Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain (Completed in February; 3/5 stars)
A book that's published in 2017: Are you Sleeping by Kathleen Barber 
A book involving a mythical creature:
A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile:
A book about food: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (Completed in January; 4/5 stars)
A book with career advice: Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp (In Progress)
A book from a nonhuman perspective:
A steampunk novel:
A book with a red spine: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (Completed in January; 2/5 stars)
A book set in the wilderness: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (Completed in February; 3/5 stars)
A book you loved as a child: Chasing Rebird by Sharon Creech
A book by an author from a country you've never visited:
A book with a title that's a character's name:
A novel set during wartime:
A book with an unreliable narrator: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (In Progress)
A book with pictures: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (Completed in March; 1/5 stars)
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (Completed in February; 5/5 stars)
A book about an interesting woman: Handle with Care by Jodi Picot (Completed in April; 3/5 stars)
A book set in two different time periods:
A book with a month or day of the week in the title: Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (Completed in March; 3/5 stars)
A book set in a hotel:
A book written by someone you admire: Adnan's Story by Rabia Chadry 
A book that's becoming a movie in 2017: All the Bright Places (Completed in January; 2/5 stars)
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (Completed in January; 4/5 stars)
The first book in a series you haven't read before: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead 
A book you bought on a trip:

A book recommended by an author you love: Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, recommended by Jodi Picoult
A bestseller from 2016:
A book with a family-member term in the title:
A book that takes place over a character's life span:
A book about an immigrant or refugee:
A book from a genre/subgenre that you've never heard of:
A book with an eccentric character:
A book that's more than 800 pages:
A book you got from a used book sale:
A book that's been mentioned in another book:
A book about a difficult topic: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Completed in April; 2/5 stars)
A book based on mythology:

Books read in 2017: 15
Progress towards reading goal for the year: 15/50 (30%)
Progress towards reading challenge completion (excluding "Advanced"): 12/40 (30%)

I am still looking for recommendations for some of the prompts! You all have given me some great ones so far (and I'm still deciding which books to choose for a few of the prompts). I would love more recommendations!

Get a printout of the challenge HERE

P.S. You can always find my reviews by following along with me on Goodreads.

 photo Sage - Signature_zpsz8vd3ffc.png