When you're wondering how to build a bridge between people

8:33 pm Unknown 0 Comments

A few months ago my husband, Xylon, took 5 or so books that we both read once but aren’t likely to read again to a second hand bookseller. He came back about an hour later and said, “It was a waste of my time. The guy wasn’t interested.”

This surprised me since these were books by bestselling authors or bestselling books. There was no reason for a second-hand bookseller not to want them.

There was only one reason I could imagine for the bookseller not buying them. And that was because the person who bought them to him, my husband, was of a different race.

I’m not the type of person who jumps up and down all the time yelling, “racist!” so I kept my thoughts to myself but it made me mad.

A few weeks ago, Xylon and I were driving in the car and I started to share some of my thoughts on race with him.

I mentioned how the incident with the bookseller made me so angry because I’m pretty sure if I’d walked in with my pale skin and sun-streaked blonde hair and my white-ness that he would have given me the time of day.

I told Xylon, as he drove, how it made me so angry that sometimes he was treated differently because of the colour of his skin we are treated differently because of the colour of our skins. (I left the strike out in because I think it shows how I don’t see people treating me with preference as being treated differently – but it’s just as wrong as Xylon being treated without preference.)

A friend of mine is raising two children with darker skin than hers. When we meet for coffee sometimes I’ll tell her a story about something that happened to Xylon and I. A story about how we were treated differently because we both don’t look the same. I remember the first time, how she said, “It’s because you’re not white anymore. You and I, we’re not white anymore.”

Her theory is that the day she and her husband stood in a court and stated they would love these children with skin the colour of Africa’s soil was the day they lost their whiteness. And that the day I married Xylon is the day I lost mine.

My friend reckons that through tying your life to someone of a different race, culture, country or language you learn to value people for people. Some of their value rubs off on you and vice versa. 

Xylon and I often joke about how his old school friends must think he’s “made it” because he has a white wife or how his family must think we live in a nice house because I’m loaded because I’m white (I’m not). In this case, my perceived white value is rubbing off on him. It annoys both of us because we’re both worth more than our skin colour.

I didn’t write a lot towards the end of last year and one reason was “white-ness”. It’s my label for “white privilege”. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot but I haven’t been sure if I should write about it here. 
Race, culture, language are charged-issues. 

I think it's one of the reasons my parents resisted Xylon’s and my desire to marry. I think they knew (consciously or subconsciously) that I’d lose my white-ness if I married him. And in many (if not all) cultures today white-ness carries a privilege and opens doors that other races don’t even get to knock on.

This past year I joined a running club that consists of members who mostly have black skin, and who don’t have the same home language as me. 

I did this on purpose because I believe in diversity. 

But it’s been really challenging for me.

It’s the first time in my life that I’ve felt like an outsider because of my skin colour, language and culture. 

To put it into perspective, the club is about 97% black (based on the fact that there are about 100 members, I think, and 3 of us are white). I was the first white female to join the multi-sport club and run in their colours.

I haven’t joined as many club runs as I should have to assimilate. (The major reason being that the rest of the club are all really fast and I’m about 90seconds slower per kilometer than them so even running with them leaves me running on my own.)

Getting back on track, when I have joined club runs I’ve been challenged about how often black people who joined my friends - who are mostly white - must have felt the way I feel on the runs. It’s really taken the idea of running a mile in someone else’s shoes to a really personal level for me.

I’ve also been reading Trevor Noah’s book “Born a crime” (He’s most recently known as host of The Tonight Show in the US) It’s been challenging me in so many ways I didn’t expect. I thought I was picking up a book that would make me laugh instead it’s made me think.

One of the things Noah challenged me on was the idea of making a difference, of actually doing something to change the experiences of people who aren't like me. He talks about the proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” And then he asks, “Who is going to give the man a fishing rod?”

Xylon and I have been chatting a bit about what to do about this and about how if we’re going to see South Africa become the country it has the potential to be we need to step up.

These are a few small steps I’m going to be taking with Xylon this year:

Learn Xhosa (it’s the African language most widely spoken in the town I live in).

Go to the government school less than a KM from our house and listen to them. Hear what problems they have, what solutions they have and see if we can help them. Basically, find out what fishing rods they might need.

Help a child that Xylon has become friends with in his final year of school hopefully improve his final marks and find direction.

I’ve started a running programme to run faster so I can try run with my running club more and practice some of the Xhosa I’m learning.

Today, on facebook I read a quote I’ve seen a 100 times before: “No matter what you say, actions will always speak louder than words.”

I’d love to hear what your experiences with people of different races, cultures, languages and countries have been and what steps you think you could take to bring reconciliation in your community.

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One thing to remember when life doesn't turn out the way you expect

5:30 am Unknown 0 Comments

I guess one of the reasons I stopped writing is because I finally realised that I don't have everything figured out.

By 34, I thought I'd know what I wanted to do with my life.

I imagined I'd have children. Instead I'm not sure if we want children. And if we do if we could have our own or if we'd want to adopt.

I expected that I would found the career that I wanted to do and I’d be loving it or that I’d be stay-at-home mom to a bunch of kids. Instead I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do and I’m not sure I’d want to be a full-time mom even if we could afford it.

I thought I’d know how to clean the oven, or roast potatoes, or that I didn’t have to finish a book if I didn’t love it.

Maybe you thought you'd be married. Or you never thought you'd be divorced or widowed. Or you thought you’d be single and now you’ve got a husband and 4 kids.

Don't get me wrong I have a good life and I wouldn’t change it. It's just that I’m not living the life 15 year old me expected. I wonder how many of us are?

There's a story in the Bible about a woman called Ruth who’s life didn't turn out the way she expected (you can read her story in the book of Ruth - it's only 4 chapters).

Ruth married an immigrant, and then he died shortly afterwards, along with his brother- and father-in-law. After these tragedies, her mother-in-law, Naomi, decides to return to her land of birth. In those times her daughter-in-laws were expected to go with her so they got their belongings together and the three women start walking towards Bethlehem.

A few hours into the journey, Naomi tells Ruth and her other daughter-in-law, Orpah, to go back to their families and the only lives they’ve known. Orpah cries, kisses her mother-in-law and heads back.

Ruth's life wasn't what she expected at that moment and she had to make a choice. I wonder for how long her life hadn’t been what she expected. She lived in a time where she likely didn’t marry for a love but because her marriage made sense to both families. The bible tells us so little of her past that I wonder if she had a home that was worth running back to or if unknown future was better than the past she’d lived through.

Naomi urges her to leave again but Ruth responds:
Stop pushing me away, insisting that I stop following you!
Wherever you go, I will go.
Wherever you live, I will live.
Your people will be my people.
Your God will be my God.
Wherever you die, I will also die and be buried there near you.
May the Eternal One punish me—and even more so—if anything besides death comes between us. (Ruth 1:16-17)

They journey on and arrive in Naomi's hometown. Things are tough for the two widows. Ruth went out each day to beg for food. She bought home scraps that farmers didn't want. Yup, life really wasn't going to plan.

Ruth spent her days following behind harvesters picking up stalks of grains left behind. One of Naomi's relatives recognized her and showed kindness to Ruth allowing her to pick up scraps in his fields. Then Ruth, encouraged by Naomi, sneaks into the barn, where he sleeps, and practically asks him to marry her. Somehow, I don't think she pictured her life turning out that way.

Long story short, Ruth and Boaz marry and they have a child, who has a child, who has a child called David, who the bible describes as a man after God’s heart.

The thing that encourages me is that Ruth would never have known this.

We know how things worked out because we know how the story ends. But Ruth didn't.

When she died she would not have known the role she played in changing the world. She would only have looked back and thought, "Well, my life didn't go the way I expected!"

I think most of us won't know either how twists and turns in our lives have an impact on eternity. But God does. SaveSaveSaveSave

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I've been a bad friend. Can we start over?

5:30 am Unknown 0 Comments

What do you say to kickstart a friendship when you’ve been the one not responding to emails, facebook posts and calls for a while?

How do you start explaining that you’re not exactly sure why you stopped participating just that you couldn’t anymore?

And what do you say when you’re not sure that you can offer the kind of consistency that you did in the past?

Okay, however I do this it’s going to be a bit of an awkward conversation so I hope you’re reading this post a bit like you would to a conversation with a friend you haven’t seen a while but want to give a second chance too.

I’m sorry that I went silent at the end of last year. I’m not exactly sure why. I’d maybe say that I’ve just felt a bit directionless.

When I started the blog I did it because I wanted to get published. And to do that I knew I needed to write. I also needed a space to process the emotions I felt while my husband, Xylon, went through cancer treatment. 

I found that here.

A publisher found me too. 

In fact two did, both well-known publishers for some of the biggest names in Christian Non-Fiction. One I wrote some devotionals for which you can read in the NIV Bible for Women published by Zondervan in 2015. The other publisher I wrote a book proposal for at their request. They liked it but they needed me to have more of a platform.

When I dug deeper I discovered that meant they wanted me to speak at events and use any connections I had to get that speaking career going. I thought about it. I brainstormed contacts and places to start. I prayed about it and I decided that I didn’t want to write a book that badly. I’m an introvert. I don’t like presenting to people and I don’t like being away from home for work. So I got back to the publisher and basically told them that – knowing that it would mean closing the door on that possibility. But I was okay with that. I felt comfortable in my own skin. I’m still happy with that decision. It felt right for me.

Since I started writing Xylon also - all glory to God - got better and hasn’t needed any treatment for cancer for the last three years but this left me not knowing what to write about here. I was no longer writing to get published and no longer writing to process Xylon’s cancer treatment. 

Last year, I tried to write around a theme, “well”, and I found that I didn’t have a lot to say and blogging felt a bit like a chore.

I’d like to start blogging again but I’m not really sure what you’d like to hear from me, or what kind of schedule I can keep, so I’m going to do what I maybe should have done from the beginning and ask you how this space can serve you.

What kinds of content do you want to see more of? Less of? What are the biggest challenges facing you that I can help you overcome? Here's your chance to tell me. It should only take 4-5 minutes.

Click this link to begin the survey. I'm so grateful for your help.