Charlotte-8

Charlotte,

(Eight years old feels like the right time to start telling you all the things. And by the time you’re reading this, you’re celebrating year 18-with 10 letters, written each birthday starting today.)

((It’s good to know where we’ve come from. There’s great value in being able to track the person you’ve been all along. But also, it’s never ever going to be too late to redefine yourself.

And so, little love, let me tell you who you are at eight. And then I’ll tell you who I am while raising your eight-year-old self. And by the time you’re reading these letters, I’m certain we’ll be different people almost entirely. But also, much of the same.))

At eight, you’re the sweetest soul I’ve known in this lifetime. You’re aware of the things happening around you-most especially, the people. You’re inclusive in a way that challenges me. You ask good questions and you’re easy to please. And while you are too young to put words to what you’re doing, you’re forever extending grace upon grace.

The loves of your life are this family of ours. You not only tell us, but you show us. Your sister makes you laugh the loudest-and you’re all too happy to do whatever your brother tells you to do.  You like to help around the house-especially cooking in the kitchen. You’re serious about your chore chart (which was ALL your idea) and even more serious about the allowance.

You love running around outside-playing pretend-with some of the dearest friends, Blessings, Kahale, Faith, + Mary. The five of you are found digging in dirt, cooking actual food over actual fires, and imagining yourselves as mamas + doctors + teachers until the sun sets every.single.day.

You love school + taking tests + riding your bike home with friends each day. Your favorite sports are soccer + lacrosse, your favorite food is strawberries, and your favorite color is ‘all of them!’ You love a good sing along-and you’re not afraid to show off some serious dance moves. You still hold my hand when we go for walks and you still want to cuddle on the couch. If this isn’t the case forever, I’m just so glad it’s the case right now.

Nearly every day as I hug and kiss you out the door, I remind you, I just want you to be brave and kind-and don’t forget to pay attention to who’s being left out. That’s basically it. Working hard and being respectful count for something-but my top two are brave + kind.

I want you to know that people are more similar than not. That poverty is multidimensional. That Philadelphia fans are the greatest in the world. And that you are enormously privileged-and you have a responsibility to do something with it.

There’s a lot you don’t know about this world. At both eight when I’m writing this-but also at 18 when you’re reading it. I only know this to be true, because at 32, there’s still so much I don’t know as well. My current mantra is ‘when you know better, you do better.’ I hope you find yourself wrestling with the ways of the world-seeking out opinions that are different from your own-and allowing your heart to break for people and places that deserve your time and attention.

On the days I believe that Jesus is who He says He is, I believe it in the depths of who I am. I want you to know and live in that truth, too. But your dad and I are big believers that we can’t push people to Jesus-we can’t pull them there-we just have to point them in the direction of Christ. And so at year eight, I’ll continue sharing about the goodness of God in an effort to point your little heart there, too. But the choice will forever be yours. I just hope our example is a good one-and that when it’s not, we’re able to say so. And then do better next time.

You told me the other day that you hope to be just like me when you grow up. Dear girl, I hope to be just like you, too. It’s the privilege of this lifetime to be your mama and these last eight years have been an absolute dream come true with you by our side.

Love you dream girl,

Mama.

8.1

8.8

 

living internationally.

The boxes I check are : female, white, middle class, and American. Furthermore, I live internationally (by choice) and went to a liberal Christian college and still subscribe to a lot of truth I learned there.

The space in which I currently live is not my home-and despite my best effort and desire-it never will be. I can invest and I can try to assimilate-but ultimately I’m an expatriate (definition : a person living outside their home country.) We are proud holders of a two year work permit-which we’ve successfully renewed twice so far in Immigration offices.  Immigration offices that have been fair and accommodating-but will always represent the reality that on some level, I need to prove my worth to stay where I’m standing.

That might sound dramatic-except when you’re a visitor (even a long term one) you have to follow the rules and both understand and meet the expectations placed on you.  You don’t have the luxury of not knowing the political climate or policy changes. It doesn’t matter if you mean it, you apologize endlessly when you’re in the wrong. And you don’t forget to travel with your documents.

Living internationally has been so good and so hard. Despite the fact that my passport and the color of my skin hold great power in this world, my perspective is still forever changed from learning how to be an outsider. Even still, I cannot relate to what it might feel like to be an immigrant in America. Certainly not today. And most certainly not at our US southern borders.

We celebrated Independence Day a couple weeks back-and my relationship with the holiday-and the country as a whole-is a complicated one. It’s one part pride and two parts shame. It’s navigating a history that is not good or fair or honest or trustworthy for so many people. It’s speaking truth that will likely be received as ungrateful and contentious. It’s feeling unsure of where my allegiances should stand. It’s wanting to correct ‘God Bless America’ to ‘God Bless the whole wide world’ every time I hear it spoken.

My discomfort with celebrating the greatness and history of the United States is not political. It has nothing to do with the current administration-or the previous 10 administrations for that matter. It’s not dramatic. And it’s not divisive.

My discomfort is rooted in a history that has not been honest or told the whole truth. It’s wondering when and where our nation has ever apologized to Indigenous peoples and to those who were stolen and sold to slavery. We’ve hardly acknowledged these realities-let alone apologized for them. We’ve moved past them to teach a version of history that centers whiteness as strong-and brave-and necessary if we want the world to run well. And when anyone challenges that narrative, we double down and call the ‘critics’ ungrateful-divisive-toxic-and wrong.

I want to be able to ask those who claim Christ where their Bibles preach nationalism. Or anti-immigration. I want to know how we’ve gotten here. And more than that, how we move away from our current reality-to a place that is kinder. To a table that is bigger. Filled with seats that are more diverse. Not because that’s politically correct. But because it’s honest and fair and better.

Living internationally has taught me an enormous amount-about myself and about the whole wide world. I’m forever grateful for the lessons learned when I stepped outside the USA borders and looked back in. I know what it is to feel disconnected from my home-both proximally and emotionally. And to allow that disconnect to point me to the truth that says if Jesus is who he says he is, then I shouldn’t hold so tightly to any location on this earth. That it’s never been about the borders. It’s always been about the people. And that changes just about everything.

I began learning about the ugly side of American history right around the time Donald Trump made his run for political office. And while he’s the current face of the ugliness in America, he is not fully responsible for the hate so many of us are just learning about. Men (+ women) like Donald Trump have existed everywhere always. They haven’t always been so brazen-or outspoken-or powerful, but they’ve created this world to run according to their agendas-which have been exclusive and xenophobic.

When I’ve lost all hope, I find myself settling into an attitude of cynicism-but that’s not where I want to remain. I want to be optimistic and open minded. I want to keep asking questions-and learning from all the voices. I want to believe people when they speak their truth-and apologize for the ways I’ve been all too apathetic and part of the problem. I want to shut down the voices that preach and operate out of a scarcity complex-that says there isn’t enough to go around and we’ve got to be exclusive or else it might cost us too much.

It’s never going to cost us too much to be more inclusive. And when people tell you otherwise, I think it’s worth asking the question-what costs are we talking about.