4.26.2017

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,

never
trust anyone
who says
they do not see color.
this means
to them
you are invisible.
-is

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


Feel free to follow along with Christina here:

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4.24.2017

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?

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4.21.2017

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:

Advanced
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.

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4.19.2017

He Sent; We Go (Part II)


Elise Buchheit was 9 years old when she first called a boy "sexist" and she's been causing trouble ever since. She works in the utility industry and blogs (intermittently) about debt & personal finance. Elise lives in mid-Missouri and can usually be found in deep conversation with her husband about local sports or geopolitical game theory or all the inconsistencies in How I Met Your Mother. Twitter | Blog

This post is Part II of a two part series. I recommend starting with Part I which you can find HERE.


How should we act as individual believers?

Repent. Whether we are so absorbed in our own lives and desire for comfort that we ignore the needs of our neighbors OR we are pridefully seeing ourselves as better and deserving of special grace and position, we need to repent. We need to repent of pain we have caused any brothers and sisters in our church and communities - we may need to repent directly to those people. We need to repent from judgement and from greed. Did I mention pride? The very act of repentance reminds us that we do not have anything to brag about beyond the work of Christ.

Pray. God make us see your image in our neighbors be they near or far or gay or transgender or Latinx or Black or Muslim or atheist or disabled or poor. God make us mourn for the lost and convict us to care more about the eternal standing of all your children. Destroy our concern for ourselves and our comfort and move us to give generously, pursue relationships radically, and care for others in a way that demands a gospel explanation.

Bear. Among our brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially in our local church community, we need to be living closely with each other and bearing each others burdens. If we are living this way, we will necessarily be aware of social injustices or felt needs experienced by our fellow Christians. Bearing with each other might mean simply listening and being physically present for a sister or it may mean giving tangible aid.

Go. We are called to an active mission of love and discipleship. We need to show God’s love to everyone experiencing injustice. We need to break out of our bubble of comfort and follow Jesus’ example as he sought out the outcasts of society, the poor, the sick, and the powerless. We need to go, meet our neighbors, and love them more than we love ourselves.

Give. We should give our time and our money to care for those in need and to pursue justice for the oppressed.

BONUS: Don’t make it about you.
Allow people to share their pain, needs, and unjust experiences without making it about you. For years I made the mistake of always trying to tie someone’s story to a parallel event in my own life which I would share with them. I thought I was being empathetic and connecting with people. It wasn’t until a friend finally called me out on it that I came to understand I was actually invalidating people’s unique histories and experiences. It is okay not to know how to respond or act in response to someone’s lamentation, but drawing false parallels and making the conversation about you is absolutely not the answer.


How should we act as churches?

Don’t Ignore. You and I will probably end our time on this earth with different views about what is just and right. But ignorance is not the answer to our differences. We can begin by not ignoring the social justice issues that should certainly not cause divisiveness. Racism exists and people of color experience injustice in the criminal justice system, the workforce, and the schools. Poverty and hunger exist in our local communities and around the world. Sexual exploitation of minors occurs in every corner of the world. Refugees of conflict are sleeping in tents as we speak. Let’s not slip into ignoring issues of injustice simply because we have differences on some things.

Don’t Conflate. A teacher not being able to pray out loud over her students is not a social justice issue. A courthouse taking down the ten commandments is not a social justice issue. Your Target cashier saying “Happy Holidays” is not a social justice issue. Gay couples getting insurance benefits while your church believes homosexuality is a sin is not a social justice issue. Yes, freedom of religion is a social justice issue, but in our democratic nation we certainly have that freedom (and according to scripture, any individual persecution we feel should be expected and we should pray it serves to glorify God). We must not let our churches get bogged down with outrage over these distractions.

Listen & Learn. Churches should listen to and amplify the voices of members who have minority and historically-oppressed identities. Churches should be involved in the local community and listen to the fears and needs of members of the community. Too often the church is rightly called out for being afraid of science and secular data. Let’s throw that off and dive into learning about the injustices facing our neighbors in this world.

Mobilize. The gospel message is relevant for all people everywhere. People need Jesus. They need food and freedom and refuge too. Thankfully we are blessed beyond belief and we the church can give living water and clean drinking water. In our churches, we should cast off false prosperity-gospel messages and teach ourselves how to share the real gospel with people in a personal way that speaks into their life circumstances. We should mobilize our church body to go into our local communities and love people radically. We should pray as a church body over injustice in the world and we should find active ways to help people in need and experiencing injustice around the world. We should challenge our church bodies to give generously in a way that sacrifices comfort. We should challenge our church bodies to be open to foster parenting, adoption, giving up spare bedrooms, living in different parts of town, and entering the mission field. We must go, love, share.

Continue the Conversation.

I’ve been talking for way too long (seriously, Cassie, you should probably cut every third word), so it’s about time to make this a true conversation. What responsibility do you think we as Christians have to seeking justice? How should we start the conversation within our Christian communities? What fears or concerns hold you back from pursuing justice and reconciliation?

Resources:
Devotions on Justice
The Liturgists Podcast: Advocacy
International Justice Mission
How to Actually Fight for Racial Reconciliation
Care Sacrificially - David Platt
This Good Word Podcast: Refugees with Lynne Hybels
The Village Church: Justice and Racial Reconciliation
Prison Fellowship
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4.17.2017

He Sent; We Go (Part I)

I'm very excited to have my "real life" friend, Elise, here with us today. Elise and I are kindred spirits and it's an honor doing community alongside her. I hope you enjoy this two part series as much as I did!


Elise Buchheit was 9 years old when she first called a boy "sexist" and she's been causing trouble ever since. She works in the utility industry and blogs (intermittently) about debt & personal finance. Elise lives in mid-Missouri and can usually be found in deep conversation with her husband about local sports or geopolitical game theory or all the inconsistencies in How I Met Your Mother. Twitter | Blog

I usually blog about personal finance, so it has been challenging and enriching to work (and work and work and then delete and then work some more) on this blog post about faith and social justice. At first I took to writing with vigor, then I got stuck, so I went and re-read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Parable of the Good Samaritan. While I’d love to just repost both here and assign them as homework to all in this community Cassie has created, I believe Cassie’s hope is for us to do something a little bit harder than just reading great words and challenging parables. The hope is for us to stop ignoring the difficult conversations and begin to talk to each other lovingly about how we the church should act in light of injustice and pain. With that in mind, let’s start the conversation.


First, what do I mean by Social Justice?

Social justice is an amorphous term and lately it has become very polarizing. In the United States, even our founding declaration says all men are created equal. And yet, social justice has become tied to political parties and movements that scare many Christians.

My favorite explanation of social justice is that it advocates for equal and complete human rights for ALL people as listed in the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. This list includes freedom of religion and speech, freedom from slavery or forced marriage, freedom from torture and cruel punishment, right to education, right to employment without discrimination, right to criminal defense and the presumption of innocence, and the right to asylum from persecution.

While most Christians and most churches in the United States would probably say that feeding the hungry and helping orphans were good and Godly things to do, I would argue that the dominant reaction from churches these days to issues of social justice is to just ignore them. Perhaps it’s because there are so many issues and causes that it is overwhelming. Perhaps it’s because pastors don’t know how to address the issues and don’t want to do so badly. Perhaps it’s because congregations have different opinions on what is just or how the church should respond to a specific issue. Or perhaps pastors and their congregations believe that social justice doesn’t have anything to do with the gospel and could cause the church to pursue good works instead of sharing God’s grace. Whatever the reason, many Christians have been silent on social justice or segregated their views on social justice from their faith.

While the church is silent, the world experiences injustice.

Two and a half years ago Michael Brown’s lifeless body laid for four hours uncovered from the August sun on a street in Ferguson, Missouri. His death sparked protests that were watched around the world, catapulting the Black Lives Matter movement into prominence. The house where I grew up and lived for 18 years of my life sits just 5 miles from the spot where Brown was shot. He was seven years younger than me, but certainly we must have gone to some of the same stores, the same movie theaters, and played in some of the same parks as children.

While I wasn’t protesting in the streets, and in fact now live over 100 miles away from Ferguson, I was still in the thick of the coverage. I read every news story, poured over Reddit investigations and Twitter feeds, and even read the grand jury transcripts. It was increasingly surreal watching national press pick apart North St. Louis County demographics and policing. Reading my Facebook friends’ feeds was like seeing both sides of a war zone. I was friends with white police officers in North County and with Black former classmates and teammates who were out protesting.

Yet with all my attention to and interest in the investigation, outrage, and aftermath of the shooting, one thing from that time has stuck with me the most. In a conversation with my mom (who still lives just 5 miles away), she was sorrowful as she lamented that in a single moment when Michael Brown’s life ended, his soul went somewhere and that didn’t matter enough to us. Many of our friends and family were wholly fixated on painting Michael Brown as a thug and a threat with no concern for his eternal soul. Regardless of your personal feelings about what transpired August 9, 2014 in Canfield Green Apartments, a young man who was made in the image of God died and his eternal resting place was sealed.

And many men and women of color have died since then, disproportionately finding themselves victims of violence and/or law enforcement action.

I’ve now invoked the term social justice and brought up one of the most controversial news stories of the past 5 years. Have you prepared yourself to jump into my corner of the ring or click away to a different post depending on where I go next? Perfect, sounds like a good time to talk about the election then!


What happens to a dream deferred?

After the results of the election came in last November, many of us were shocked and scared and sad. We were worried about friends and strangers alike, how this seeming endorsement of hate and isolationism would affect the daily lives of people of color, Muslims, Jews, gay and lesbian people, transgender people, refugees, and so many others who are targets. Many well-intentioned Christians responded to our fears with a reminder: we might be worried, but our hope is in Christ, and all things will be made new at the end of the day.

This reasoning has been rolling around in my head for the past four months now. Was I a bad Christian because it felt like that hope wasn’t enough here?

Do the 13 year old sex slaves in Thai brothels and suburban basements feel that hope? Do the orphans of the literal war on drugs in Manila feel that hope? Do the mamas trying to keep their families safe in Mosul feel that hope? Does the terrified 14 year old boy in rural Missouri feel that hope as he tries to ignore the pain of homophobic slurs from classmates? It feels hollow to look upon the pain and fears of my fellow humans (many of whom have not experienced the saving grace of Jesus and may never) and find comfort knowing one day God will take me and my friends to heaven and justice will be served.

It is in this context that I began reading and researching to write this post. From Michael Brown’s death and the following two and a half years of increasing tension and injustice in our society (or at least my awareness of it increasing), I came away feeling strongly that 1) I needed to recognize the image of God in my neighbors near and far and care more about their eternal standing, 2) caring about someone’s eternal soul necessarily requires caring about their life, and 3) merely claiming hope in Christ in the face of injustice was hollow without action alongside it.

What does the Bible say about social justice within the Church?
James 2:1-10, James 2:14-19, 1 John 3:16-18, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Acts 2:42-47, Mark 10:42-45, Colossians 3:12-15

With our brothers and sisters in Christ, the Bible is clear: we should sacrificially care for each other and repent of our pride and prejudice as we bear one another’s burdens. We are not supposed to ignore the needs of our brothers and sisters. We are called to seek peace, repent liberally, and serve each other humbly. We are told over and over again that we should not rule over each other or see ourselves as above our brothers and sisters due to our heritage or our gifts or our position. This is because we were all equally dead in our sin and saved only by God’s grace.

What does the Bible say about social justice for the lost?
James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8-9, Jeremiah 22:3, Luke 10:30-37, Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 29:7, Proverbs 28:27, Exodus 23:9, Deuteronomy 1:16-17

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God’s Church (His chosen people, the Israelites in the Old, and the followers of Jesus in the New) is called to defend the weak, feed the hungry, care for the poor and orphans and widows, issue fair legal judgments, and treat foreigners well. While some of these calls are given through the Jewish laws and we are now free from being under the law through Jesus, the laws were not eliminated, merely fulfilled by Jesus. Therefore we can find everything we need to know in Matthew 22:37-40:

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If we simply explain the gospel without caring about the needs and hurts and lives of our neighbors, then we are not loving them or trying to make a disciple of them, we are merely handing them a tract.
 
Be sure to return this Wednesday for Part II of Elise's guest post. You won't want to miss it!

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4.13.2017

RoadID

Disclaimer: I received a RoadID to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


Most of my active life is done solo (with the exception of my dog). The majority of my runs, hikes, and bike rides are alone. That's why it's so important for me to practice various safety behaviors, such as wearing my RoadID. RoadID is an identification band that has your important personal information on it.


My RoadID includes my full name, DOB, emergency contacts, and important medical history such as No Known Allergies (NKA). Should anything ever happen to me, someone should be able to look at my wristband and have all of the relevant information they need to contact my loved ones and make sure I am safe.

RoadID is great because they have a ton of different styles that fit a variety of needs. For example, they have wristbands (such as mine), IDs for your shoe laces, IDs for pets, and IDs that attach to the fitness band you already own (hello Apple Watch and FitBit users!). Each ID has a variety of options in terms of band color, plate color, and the information you want to include.


Before I got my wrist ID, I had one for my laces. I have to say that although I LOVE my new wristband, I find that the shoe lace ID is better for my personal needs because I don't always remember to put my wristband on. With the shoe lace ID, you never have to worry about forgetting to put it on. However, what I love about the wristband is that it's lightweight, easy to put on, and comfortable.

The best part about the RoadID is that it's affordable. Despite how affordable it is, the quality is not lacking! I have had my shoe ID for going on 8 years and it's still as solid as ever. It has endured thousands of miles and dozens of pair of shoes! Click here to get $5 off a RoadID of your own!

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3.27.2017

2017 Reading Challenge Update III


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 THREE for the year so far. I got a little behind this month as we have been spending our nights preparing the nursery and doing other baby-related things. However, I can still count on my trusty audiobooks when picking up a book feels a bit hard.

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 Over 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:
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
A book with pictures: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (In Progress)
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 Picoult (In Progress)
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:

Advanced
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 (In Progress)
A book based on mythology:

Books read in 2017: 10
Progress towards reading goal for the year: 10/50 (20%)

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!

Would you consider joining me for the challenge? It's not too late! Get a printout of the challenge HERE

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

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3.26.2017

Sage Turns 4!


Today this little blog is officially four years old! When I first started writing in March, 2013 I set out to create a space of personal vulnerability, particularly in my walk with Christ. I was saved in 2012 and baptized in June, 2013 which means this blog has been there throughout the majority of my walk as a Christian. That also means it has been with me through a move across the country, and engagement, nearly three years of a marriage, and now pregnancy. It has been amazing to see the ways I have grown and the ways in which our life has changed since starting Sage in 2013.

I am so thankful to all of you that have been faithful readers since day one. I have cultivated some of the most amazing relationships through this blog and I will be forever grateful for that. For those that joined me somewhere along the way in the last four years, I am so grateful for you as well. I can't wait to see what the future holds for Sage! Happy birthday, Sage!

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3.14.2017

School Segregation: The Problem We Still All Live With

I have been looking forward to sharing today's post with you all for some time. Frances, who you will meet shortly, and I recently became friends when we joined a group of women, Black and white, together online to start talking about race. During these discussions, the topic of modern day school segregation came up and I immediately realized how little I knew about the topic. Frances shared some resources with us and I immediately became aware of my own naivete. I'm going to take a wild guess and assume I am not alone in this. For that reason, I have asked Frances to join us today to share a bit about the topic and her personal experience with it. 




Frances Crusoe is a mom of two living in the south. She is a recovering Christian, a graduate student, a sometimes writer, a coffee snob, podcast junkie and an advocate for social justice and women's rights. You can usually find her on Instagram or Twitter chatting about everything from race to politics and the state of the church.


When someone mentions a pivotal time in history like school segregation, for many, it may conjure up images of the racially charged 50s and 60s Civil Rights era. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case that racially segregated schools were in violation of the 14th Amendment. Schools were forced integrate much to the dismay of  white parents. Schools were mandated by court order to integrate, forcing black and white children to be educated together.


Forced segregation during those times had serious effects on the quality of education that black children were given in contrast to white students. Housing discrimination practices called redlining created all black neighborhoods for generations because banks denied loans based on race and refused to give loans to black families looking to move to areas where white families lived. Black families were confined to overcrowded sections of cities across the country and it became a way of life that was not questioned or challenged for fear of retaliation. Segregated neighborhoods meant segregated schools. While schools were separate, they were far from equal because black schools were overcrowded, underfunded and had more unqualified teachers than white schools.
At 6 years old, Ruby Bridges, became the first Black child to attend an integrated public elementary school in the south. After being met by angry white parents who hurled racial slurs and objects at the child, Ruby had to be escorted to school by federal agents. Parents refused to allow their children to be in the same classroom as Ruby and teachers refused to teach her. Ruby sat alone in an empty classroom for an entire school year with just one teacher, Barbara Henry, who took up the charge to educate  young Ruby.


Elizabeth Ann Eckford was a 15 year old Black teenager who was one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of black high school students who were the first to integrate Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957. Black children were being bussed from their neighborhoods to attend white schools. Just like young Ruby Bridges, the Little Rock Nine were met by angry white parents with picket signs and armed national guard soldiers. Although it has been 60 years since the Little Rock Nine integrated Central High school, the issues of school segregation and the idea of separate but equal are still alive and well.



Despite the resistance, integrating schools actually helped shrink the achievement gap between black and white students. Black schools had traditionally received less funding, less access to technology and had less qualified teachers. By integrating schools, Black students now had equal access to resources that had always been readily supplied to white schools. Academically, Black students who attended integrated schools were now on par with white students. However, by the 1980’s, integration efforts as a whole started to reverse. Longstanding resistance to desegregation by white families resulted in white flight, gerrymandering election and school districts zones and the increased appeal of private schools. As white families moved out of cities and school districts were rezoned, Black and white students were once again funnelled back into racially divided schools.

Growing up in Mississippi in the 1980s, I was vividly aware that there was a distinct racial divide in my own hometown. Most Black people lived one side of town and white people lived on the other. Our neighborhoods, churches, parks, schools and even funeral homes were all racially separate. Schools could be easily classified as either a white school or Black school. It was not until school children entered the seventh and eighth grade and were all housed in one junior high school together did both most Black and white children sit in the same classroom together.

Historically, there had always been two high schools in my city, one Black and one white. It wasn’t until 1991 that the school board voted to combine the two high schools combined into one.  By the time I matriculated to high school in 1995, many of my white classmates were withdrawn from public school system and enrolled in private schools. Other families moved further outside the city limits where county schools that were majority white schools. For the white families that could not afford to either move to another school district or pay private school tuition, they had no other option but to send their children to the newly combined high school. In response, white parents had a high school racial task force created. This helped to ensure that there would both both Black and white student representation in the various high school activities such as homecoming court and the coveted drum major role. Every year, students had to vote on a Black and white homecoming king, queen and court, prom king and queen and drum major. This practice of “separate but equal” went on for a decade, finally being abolished at the request of the students who felt that they deserved a chance to really function as one high school body, not a racially divided one.  

Fast forward to the present day and the fight against school segregation is still happening. Our neighborhoods are just as segregated today as they were decades ago so our schools continue to suffer the repercussions. White families voluntarily self segregate into majority white neighborhoods and communities. Those that do choose to live in racially mixed neighborhoods in many instances opt out of sending their children to neighborhood schools, in favor of private or charter schools, never fully investing into their neighborhoods. Discriminatory housing practices that continue to create and maintain racially segregated neighborhoods are still happening and school districts are still fighting courts to force desegregation in schools. Often times, Black and brown students who live in racially segregated neighborhoods have to deal with poverty, lack of jobs, crime (typically as a result of lack of jobs) and over policing (because of racial bias and crime rates). This reality is happening to these minority students all while attending underfunded and underperforming schools that do not prepare them for or even provide the minimum course requirements for college admissions. If these obstacles were not enough, these same students are more than like to be funnelled through the school to prison pipeline due to being given harsher punishment for school infractions than their white counterparts.

The issue of school segregation is an issue that can be easily ignored by those who voluntarily live in racially segregated communities. While every parent wants nothing but the best for their children, education included, not every child is afforded equal access to a quality education which is a fundamental right. For many, the plight of underserved school districts across the country will never affect them, therefore, there is no inherent motivation to fight for those who are being affected. Yet for the families who have dealt with the ramifications of generations of racial inequality in our neighborhoods and schools, through no fault of our own except being born black, we continue to fight and advocate for the very resources that have always been made available to our white counterparts.

Frances and I would love if to hear your thoughts on the topic of school segregation. Please dialogue with us in the comments below! Also, I HIGHLY recommend listening to this NPR episode if you want to learn more. 



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3.13.2017

On My "First" Due Date


We would have had a baby this month had my first pregnancy not ended in a miscarriage. In another week or so, we would be holding a precious little life in our arms. We would be heading home from the hospital, introducing our new addition to our friends and family, and beginning our life as three. We would be changing diapers, losing sleep, and probably trying not to murder our needy animals.

I'm not going to lie and say that this month has been easy because it hasn't. I won't tell you that my heart doesn't ache every time I see someone post a photo of their fresh March babe on social media, because it does. There is an emptiness that won't be filled-- not by my current pregnancy and not by future pregnancies. There will always be loss. We will never get that first baby back.

As much as I have seen God move in the months since our miscarriage (and I mean MOVE), I still grieve. Even while I look forward to this baby, I wonder what our first would have been like. Sometimes I feel like this isn't giving God the glory, but that would be a lie because God grieves with us. He loved that first baby as much as we did, and he will love our current child just the same.

So, that's where I am at this month. Eagerly awaiting the arrival of our earth-side babe this June while grieving the loss of the one that might have been there with us this month. It's messy and hard but also filled with hope, gratefulness, and joy.

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3.10.2017

Sage Synopsis v. 10



//T H O U G H T S 

What is going on with this crazy weather? It's almost like something is happening to the planet... Anyways, it was seriously a high of 72 yesterday and tomorrow we are supposed to get a few inches of snow. What is this nonsense?! 

I really enjoyed celebrating International Women's Day this year. Although I wasn't able to participate in A Day Without A Woman, I felt like I still kicked some major ass on Wednesday. I was able to give a Grand Rounds presentation in a male-dominated department in on campus which was really empowering. I hope, as women, we continue to empower one another, even if that empowerment looks different for each of us. 

//P O P U L A R  L A T E L Y

Betsy joined us last week to talk a bit about Judaism. It was really nice to have a different voice on the blog and I was really encouraged by some of the dialogue it started in the comments section. 

On Monday I shared 6 must-see documentaries that I discovered last weekend at the True/False Film Festival. I am still having all sorts of feels from last weekend. I'm so thankful for some of the hard conversations that these films have started with our friends. 

//G O O D  R E A D S

Our missional community leaders at church just started going through Gospel Fluency together and it has been really good for me. I have been thinking a lot more about how I speak truth into the lives of others and how my conversations do or do not point to Christ. I am a problem-solver by nature so I'm trying to be conscious of just speaking truth and pointing people to Jesus rather than trying to offer solutions. I highly recommend this book!

Don't Tell Me What Strong Looks Like. Talk about badass women. Kelly Roberts talks a bit about what it's like to be a runner that might not look like the "typical" runner and how she found a way to embrace her own strength in the midst of that.

//A U D I B L E S 

If you loved Serial and you're into politics, you love The 45th. It's all about the Trump Administration and what is happening in the White House.

A friend recently suggested the podcast With Friends Like These to me and I love it. Since the election I have had this lingering feeling that I don't have enough diverse political opinions in my life. This podcast brings in guests from liberal and conservative backgrounds to talk about politics, social justice, and the like. It brings together a diverse group of voices that we might not otherwise hear in our current bubbles.

//I N S P I R E 


//B L O G G E R  L O V E 

When You Don't Know What to Say by The Lady Okie. In this post, Amanda writes a letter to her friend who recently had a miscarriage. I cannot even tell you how meaningful it would have been to have more friends say these words to me after my own miscarriage.

Avoiding Racial Conversations In Interracial Relationships Isn’t An Option In Trump’s America. This was an important read about a topic that I don't often think a lot about. In the next few months I'll have a great guest post on the topic of interracial relationships. I hope you'll come back and read!

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3.09.2017

3 Reasons to Run in the Kansas City Marathon Series


I know none of you will be surprised when I say I already have a race planned for after Baby B gets here. I'll be participating in the Kansas City Marathon Series 10K on October 21st and this is my attempt to get you to join me! Here are 3 reasons why you should consider running in the Kansas City Marathon series this October:

1. They partner with great charities. 
The Kansas City Marathon Series has a number of official charity partners so that you can run for a cause. They have partnered with organizations such as World Vision, KC Pet Project, and Team Fidelis. Learn more HERE.

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2. The Kansas City scenery. 
I'm a huge fan of Kansas City. The race course takes you past a ton of KC's best attractions and neighborhood (although this obviously ranges depending on the distance you choose) including the WWI Memorial, Country Club Plaza, Nelson Atkins Museum, and Westport.

3. The weather. 
I am NOT a fan of Midwest weather, however, there couldn't be a better time of year to participate in a race in the Midwest if you're going to. The historical average high for October 21 is 66 degrees, can you have more perfect fall running weather?!

Check out the below recap video of the 2016 race:



I hope to see you there. Please don't hesitate to ask me any questions you might have about the race or Kansas City! Don't forget to use code “BIBRAVE17” for 15% off! Below are the remaining price increases for the 10K:

$45 – May 1 
$50 – September 1 
$60 – Packet Pickup

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3.07.2017

6 (More) Must-See Documentaries


If you've been a reader of Sage for a while, you know I'm a huge fan of documentaries. Each year, Matt and I attend the True/False Film Festival here in Columbia, Missouri. This was our fourth year attending and it was another great one. In 2015 I posted four of my favorite films and got a really positive response from all of you, so I thought I would share my favorites from this year!

There was an overarching theme of social justice this year with a particular focus on racism and police brutality. Lucky for all of you, many of these will be available in theaters and on Netflix in the near future.

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1. Step. I basically ugly-cried throughout this entire screening. I'm not kidding. Step is about a Baltimore step team started by a group of young ladies in the sixth grade. The documentary follows their senior year, which is also during the time of Freddie Gray's death. It details what life is like for young black women in Baltimore and the remarkable strength these women demonstrate as they work towards their big step competition and college in the face of poverty, violence, and pain. This one will be coming to theaters this summer as it was recently picked up by Fox Searchlight! Brace yourself.

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2. Whose Streets? This one hit home as it documents the 2014 events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of Michael Brown. Ferguson is about an hour and a half from where we live and we remember these events clearly. In many ways, Ferguson was the catalyst for many of the social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter, that we have seen in recent years. The film takes you deep into the community as they band together in a fight for justice.


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3. The Force. The Force follows the Oakland Police Department through the federally mandated reform program, including their successes and failures. This film gives a really interesting and intimate look into the issues of police brutality and misconduct. The style of this documentary will captivate you just as much as the content.

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4. The Grown-Ups. This one was also a tearjerker. The film follows a group of students with Down's Syndrome as they learn various skills related to independent living skills while at the same time navigating overbearing parents and legal limitations on their rights. The film raises provocative questions about love and autonomy while also making you fall in love with each subject. This film will challenge you.


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5. I Am Not Your Negro. This film celebrates the writings of James Baldwin. It explores issues related to race and class through the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and Medgar Evers. I was amazed at how Baldwin tied in various cinematic references to demonstrate how deep-seated racism is in our country. The filmmaker did an amazing job of tying Baldwin's writings to recent events such as the shootings of young black men. This is an Oscar-nominated film and definitely worth watching. You might be able to find a showing near you HERE.


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6. Strong Island. This film is very personal for the director, Yance Ford, as it explores the circumstances surrounding his brother's murder. You will immediately feel like you are a part of this family, like the loss of Yance's brother was the loss of your own family member. It will inspire anger and heartache in you as you realize how racism contributed to an unspeakable injustice: his brother's murderer walking free.

I hope that you will consider checking out a few of these films, or at least adding them to your "to-watch" list. They will challenge what you think you know about the world in the best way possible!


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