Turning Birth Order on Its Head

The Birth Order theory has been around since the late 19th century. Of course, firstborns didn’t need theories and research to tell them they were natural-born leaders, with higher intellect than their siblings. The basic theory is that a child’s personality is formed, in part, by their birth order in the family. The firstborn in a family is bossy, confident, and responsible. Middle children tend to be competitive but peacemakers, adaptable but impatient, and often feel forgotten. The baby of the family is outgoing, charming, and doesn’t take life too seriously. Sound familiar? Are you picturing your siblings—maybe how the baby got away with everything? Me too.

I was the baby: charming, quite adorable, and a natural entertainer. My mom always said, “Someday, you’ll make the stage.” But I often felt more like a middle child: always trying to make peace and please everyone. As time went by, I became a confident leader. Of course, there are negatives associated with the birth order personalities.  

As the adorable baby of the family, my brand of humor was sarcasm. Not everyone thought my sarcasm was as funny as I did. I may still struggle with that from time to time. My middle-child personality was a little overly competitive. Winning was everything. There was no second place in my world. There was winning and losing, and heaven help the teammate who didn’t play to win. I don’t struggle as much in this area anymore. And the firstborn personality’s sense of responsibility resulted in being a rule follower to the letter. For everyone. If you weren’t following the rules, I let you know. Rule following seems to have left my life at the same time as my gall bladder. Who knew they were related? Positive or negative, I didn’t fit into just one of the birth order personalities. Now what?

Lots of things mess with the birth order theory: twins, age differences, blended families. My story makes mincemeat of it. I was the baby in my adoptive family. But recently, I learned that I am the firstborn on my birth-father’s side and a middle child in my birth-mother’s family. Finally, my complicated personality makes sense.

But I have my own twist on the birth order theory. The biggest change in my personality came when I was born again at 16 years old. That’s when the firstborn traits began to appear. My confidence grew as I learned my identity was in Christ as God’s own adopted child. And my middle-child tendencies grew as peace took up residence in my heart. Even the baby in me grew, allowing me to hold loosely to this world and look forward to the future.

I was born to an earthly family and adopted into another earthly family. Then I was born again into a heavenly family and adopted by a heavenly Father. Yes, my birth order is complicated. For the first four months of my life, I had a name, and I lived in foster care. Then I was given a new name, new parents, and a new home. But that’s not where the story ends. When I was born again, I was given a new identity and position in the family of God, an heir with Jesus of the glory to come.

I have met several members of my birth families. It has been exciting to learn about them. Most of them never knew I existed. What a difference from my heavenly Father, who has not just known me but chose me and substituted his own Son to die in my place so that I can live forever with them. As the firstborn, Jesus has gone on to prepare a place for me, and I look forward to the day our Father gives me a new name and welcomes me home for the last time.

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined usfor adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” Ephesians 1:3-5 (ESV)

White as Snow or Poop Lasagne (whichever resonates with you)

Yup, we’re talking poop. Those of you who know me well, know that poop talk happens now and then. I mean, I live with a puppy, a newborn, and two toddlers still in diapers. “Who pooped?” is a question heard several times a day. Hang with me, it will be all right.

We have lived in our new house for four weeks. Things are coming together, but one of the things we haven’t exactly figured out is where the dogs ought to poop. During those four weeks, we have had four snowstorms. Because of all the snow, the poop area became right outside the front door. Our puppy has to “empty” while on a leash. That means that somebody, usually me, has to be holding the other end of the leash. So, I stand at the edge of the front walk while the puppy finds a good spot to empty, and that way I don’t have to walk in the snow.

Because snow comes with a lot of coldness, I don’t stay outside long or trek into the snow to pick up the poop right away. Before I knew it, there was a lot of poop. And then it would snow again, covering the darkly contrasting piles. It has become something of a poop lasagne with alternating layers of poop and snow.  Over the last few days, some melting occurred, and lots of poop was exposed. How gross. I decided to scoop up as much as possible since it was trash day and another storm was on the way. Unfortunately, most of the poop was so frozen to the snow/ice underneath, I couldn’t get much of it up. I pried. I pulled. I tried to dig underneath. It wasn’t budging. I gave up, looking at the piles of frozen poop in disgust. But the next day it would all be hidden again under a fresh layer of snow. How convenient. (See attached picture) But at some point, it will all come to the surface and have to be reckoned with.

I looked over the poop lasagne in my front yard and thought what a great picture of sin. Sometimes I get rid of it as soon as it is exposed. But too often I just let it get frozen in place and promise to deal with it later, especially the “lesser” sins like worry, ingratitude, or selfishness. But the longer I let it go, the more solidly embedded in my heart it becomes. The clean-up can be a long, difficult process. Sometimes it takes some serious prying and chipping away. But God’s Word says that He will make my sin as white as snow. It’s not that a pristine layer of snow hides it, like the poop lasagne. Jesus actually removes it as if it had never been there. I can start fresh, clean, like new fallen snow.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

Just Put It On

Not again. Thinking through my mental shopping list, I jumped from my car and hustled into the store. The automatic doors whooshed open, and it hit me. I didn’t have my mask on. Again. Darts shot from the eyes of the masked shoppers sanitizing their carts in the entryway.

You would think 10 months into the mask-wearing phenomenon, I would remember it every time. But I don’t. I forget it when I’m hurrying or distracted. I have at least one mask in each car. There’s one in my tote bag. I usually have one in my purse or coat pocket, but not this time. I felt exposed, almost naked. I couldn’t spin around fast enough and get back to my car where my “Merry Christmas” mask would save me from the fearful stares and judging eyes peering over less festive masks.

At first, I didn’t do well with mask-wearing. They triggered my claustrophobia. There were times I needed to step into a deserted aisle to pull the mask down for just a few seconds before a panic attack took over. The paper ones were not good at all. They seemed to stick to my face, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Realizing mask-wearing was going to become the norm, I adjusted my homemade design to fit lower under my eyes, making me feel less confined. Then I just needed to remember to put it on before entering a store.

The words I saw on Facebook every day rang in my head, “just wear the mask,” “put on your mask,” “mask up,” “save lives, wear the mask.” It frustrated me. Viruses are microscopic. These cloth masks aren’t going to keep them out. Most of the time, I kept my thoughts of masks giving people a false sense of security to myself. Sometimes, I shared my thoughts and found out just how passionate people are about the mask mandate! One of my reasonings is that I wore the mask, and I still got COVID-19. When I was out in public, I never saw anyone not wearing a mask. People in my area have been careful and compliant. Yet, I got the virus the mask was supposed to protect against.

As I thought again about “just put it on,” I remembered another mandate of things to put on. “Put on then…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…forgiving each other…And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV) Being passionate about putting on these things truly would make a difference in our world.

I decided to meditate on these verses every time I put on my mask. I’m hoping they will work their way into my heart and make me more compassionate, kind, patient, forgiving, and loving. We could all benefit from putting on those things. And maybe, just maybe, it will help me remember to put on my mask before I leave my car.

A Split Second

There’s a split second when you realize you’re about to hit another car. A friend’s accident this week reminded me of the accidents I’ve been involved in and that terrifying moment before impact.

Thirty-five years ago, I was headed home, delighted that my work week was over. In just two days, I would become Mrs. Douglas Radcliff. As I left work, I looked forward to celebrating Doug’s parents’ anniversary and then picking up the tuxedos. The day I had dreamed about was almost here. And then it happened.

As I neared the intersection, there was no need to slow down through the green light. But the oncoming car, who was waiting to turn left, decided not to wait any longer. He started his turn just as I entered the intersection, and that was the moment I knew. He was going to hit me. I closed my eyes. BAM! My initial reaction was to check my face in the mirror. No cuts. Great, the wedding pictures will be fine. Then I took inventory of the rest of my body. My knee was bleeding. That was OK; no one would see my knee under my wedding gown. Everything else seemed to be OK, but pain was creeping into my neck, back, and hip. I was wondering if I would be able to walk down the aisle. A knock on my window jarred me out of my wedding worries. I rolled down the window. A woman said, “I know CPR.”

“Great,” I replied, “I’ll let you know if I stop breathing.”

Sirens grew closer. A police officer and EMT were soon prying my car door open. Miss EMT looked me over and asked a few questions. Then she said, “I’m going to cut off your pantyhose.”

I complained, “But they’re my favorite pair.”

She looked a little confused. “They have a hole and blood on them.”

Some EMTs have no sense of humor. She checked me for head trauma. I’m sure she was thinking it was shock. But I was so relieved that I wasn’t seriously hurt, my sense of humor wasn’t even bruised.

The first ambulance had a backboard that didn’t fit into the contoured seats of my car. The second ambulance had a bendable backboard and a giant EMT who could wield it all by himself. As he secured me to it, I said, “I knew I should have lost some weight before the wedding.” He effortlessly lifted my 110-pounds out of the car and said, “You’re as light as a feather.” It seemed I was.

Once loaded into the ambulance, I stated more than asked, “You’re gonna turn the siren on, right?” Giant EMT looked at me quizzically. I explained, “I don’t expect to ride in an ambulance again, so I’d like to do it with the siren on.” He laughed and told the driver I wouldn’t be happy until the siren was blaring. The driver obliged. Then the question came that would punctuate that day, “What day is today?” I know they were just testing my brain function, but it got old pretty quickly. It was a constant reminder of all I was missing out on, not to mention that I didn’t trust my groomsmen to pick up their tuxes without me. I was sure I’d see jackets that were too tight or pants too short at my wedding. I can be a bit of a control freak. My answer was not the day or the date. My answer was always, “It’s two days before my wedding, and I don’t have time for this.”

Unfortunately, that was not my one and only ride in an ambulance and not my only car accident. It was also not the only time an EMT said to me, “If you hadn’t been wearing your seatbelt, we wouldn’t be having a conversation right now. I’d be calling the coroner.” Some were not as serious. I want to mention that none were my fault. But all had that one thing in common: I knew for a split second that I was going to be hit, and it was going to hurt. One minute I was driving along, happily anticipating the evening’s events, and the next, there was pain and debris, my plans ruined right along with my car.

But by God’s grace, my life has gone on, as will my friend’s this week, without lasting injury. I don’t know why God allows these things—things that seem to just take up my time and create headaches both physically and in working with insurance and finding a new car. But I know He has a purpose in everything. Maybe to teach us what is important. Maybe to help us better understand and minister to someone else. I remember at the time of that accident, I was studying and meditating on giving thanks in everything and having joy in trials. Maybe God was giving me an object lesson. I learn better from hands-on experience.

One thing I do know. If the outcome had been different. If they had called the coroner, that split second of fearful impact would have immediately been followed by the most glorious moment anyone could dream of: being in the presence of Jesus. Plans will be forgotten. Missing out on something won’t enter my mind. I wonder if I’ll know it right away or if it will take a second to sink in. I don’t know. Whether death happens suddenly or if I can see it coming for a long time, the joy of that split second of realization that I am with Jesus will be overwhelming. I look forward to it. But for now, I am content and thankful to remain in this life, preferably siren free.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—but we are of good courage and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-9 NASB)

Carry On

Exploring a construction project behind my Dad’s house one Saturday afternoon was an exciting adventure for a nine-year-old kid. I had never walked through an unfinished building before. It seemed so strange to imagine where walls and furniture would be, and what it would look like when it was done. We got to the end, where a door would open onto a patio, just across from my Dad’s back door. There was about a foot-wide gap between the new building and the existing patio. I knew I could jump it, but just to be sure, I gave a little extra umph to my leap. I more than cleared the crevice but overshot my landing just enough that my knee scraped a cement block sitting on the patio. The sharp edge sliced deeply into my skin. My dad whisked me into the kitchen through the back door where my stepmother shook her head and said, “That’s a six stitcher.” She was right.

What I remember most from that day was my dad carrying me. He had picked me up off the patio and carried me into the house. Then he carried me to the car and drove me to the hospital. He lifted me out of the car and carried me into the emergency room, where he never left my side as a doctor sewed my knee back together with six stitches. What I don’t remember is anything he said. He was a quiet man, so maybe he didn’t say anything. But if he did, I don’t remember it. I remember the feeling of being held tightly and carried by him. Sometimes when I’m feeling especially low or vulnerable, I recall that feeling.

Years later, as a teenager in the 70s, my room was adorned with inspirational posters. My favorite was “Footprints in the Sand” by an unknown author—I would love to take credit for its prose. It is summarized like this: we walk through life alongside Jesus, but in our most difficult times, he carries us. I have found that to be true. There are so many crevices to jump, mountains to climb, raging waters to traverse, sand to slog through. The dangers and obstacles can seem insurmountable. But then I remember that feeling of being carried.

A few years ago, I participated in what I’ve come to call “that stupid Spartan race.” If you are unfamiliar, it’s an endurance/obstacle race for the more hardcore athletes among us. I am not one of them. I do enjoy exercise and challenging myself to a degree, and I find ziplining and rock climbing a lot of fun. But I do not find any enjoyment in carrying a 5-gallon bucket of rocks up a mountain. And crawling under barbed wire should be left to boot camp trainees. What I did like about the Spartan race were the spartans. They helped each other. If someone was having trouble getting over a wall, another spartan offered them a hand. Sometimes they connected themselves to become living bridges or steps or whatever was needed to get their fellow spartan to the finish line.

I think that is how Jesus sometimes carries us. He uses the hands and feet he has here on earth, each of us helping the other when the strain of this life becomes too great. We lean into him, and he carries us. Sometimes it is through the peace only he can give. But sometimes it is through the loving arms of his body, the church (individually and corporately), helping each other over the obstacles and around the pitfalls and finally across the finish line, even if they have to carry us.

The Perfect Butterfly

Tragedy struck. In mere moments what had once been beautiful, perfect, was left in ruins. At least that’s what my six-year-old granddaughter, Emma, told me. She and her almost-three-year-old brother, Sam, were drawing with sidewalk chalk on my front porch. It was a happy time until Emma realized Sam had scribbled over her butterfly.

“He ruined it! It was perfect and now look at it!” I closed my eyes briefly, knowing the meltdown was gathering momentum.

“You can draw another butterfly, Emma.” I tried offering a solution.

“I can’t. This one was perfect. I’ll never be able to draw another one like it. Why do I even have to have a sibling?”

“Oh, Emma, he didn’t ruin it on purpose. I think he was trying to add some more color to it and just got a little carried away. But if you drew it once, you can draw it again. Maybe even better. That first one can be a practice drawing.” I was racking my non-perfectionist brain to help my perfectionist granddaughter.

“It wasn’t practice. It was perfect. I don’t remember how I did it. I’ll never be able to do it again.” Emma was inconsolable. I’m sure most of the neighbors knew this by now, but I kept trying. I can’t help it. She’s a perfectionist, and I’m a fixer.

“It’s just chalk, Emma. It wasn’t going to last forever. It would be gone in a day or two or the next time it rains, even if Sam hadn’t scribbled on it.”

“I hate chalk! Why can’t chalk be permanent? Then my perfect butterfly would be here forever.” Emma’s lament went in a new direction. Whoops. I opened that portal, didn’t I?

“It’s chalk, Emma. It’s made to wash away. If it was permanent, you couldn’t draw on my porch with it.” I tried to bring her back to reality.

“You’re just making it worse, Mom-mom. Stop talking.” Emma advised. It was good advice. Once a perfectionist has gone outside the lines, there’s no eraser big enough to fix the problem. I’ll just stop talking and let her get it all out. The neighbors have the option of going indoors.

I walked over to where Sam was sitting, quieting drawing on himself with the chalk. How could he possibly get in trouble for that? Something about the butterfly picture jumped out at me. I probably should have kept it to myself, but sometimes my thoughts come out my mouth before my brain can stop them. “Emma, you know what? You drew the butterfly in blue, and Sam drew over it in yellow. So, I can still see your butterfly clearly under the yellow.” Emma came over to look. She hesitated a second then yelled, “He ruined it!” Here we go again.

As I looked at Emma’s butterfly drawing, now smudged from Sam sitting on it, I thought how God has designed and fashioned me and is perfecting me for His purposes. I tend to mess things up and often can’t see myself as He does. The ruins I make of my life or the ugly stuff other people pile on will one day be washed away. Fortunately, He is a perfectionist, and His perfect design will eventually shine through.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 ESV

Guardian Angels, the Bigger, the Better

I don’t know how it happened, but in the process of raising three boys, somehow, we only ended up in the emergency room twice seeking stitches, once each for child #2 and #3. I could be wrong. My memory fails me as frequently as Sonic changes its menu. But I don’t think our #1 child ever had stitches in an ER. He is the only one who rode in an ambulance after a near-death experience, but no stitches. (As it turned out, what looked like a deadly sledding accident wasn’t nearly as bad as all that.)

Was it good-parenting practices? Did we cover them in bubble wrap? Maybe they never stepped outside or made a wrong move. We were homeschoolers, after all. Ha! Maybe it was because their dad was a nurse and didn’t feel a need for emergency intervention until body parts were pretty much falling off. Child #3’s injury was a pinky, and he was small, so it only needed one stitch because that’s all it could hold. Child #2’s injury was a little worse. On the phone call with the emergency room, Dr. Dad asked what plastic surgeon was on call. Before you get worried, it was an elbow, and there just wasn’t much skin left.

The boys didn’t make it easy. I’ve blogged about the William Tell reenactment using an onion, bb gun, and bird feeder (in lieu of #2’s head). If it doesn’t ring a bell, it’s worth scrolling through my archives. There were baseballs and bats, hockey sticks, pucks, and balls landing on body parts not covered by PPE (not the COVID kind), spills on granite rocks too numerous to count, roller blades, boogie boards, bikes, projectile toys and sports equipment, even (dare I say) lawn darts. How they survived childhood is anybody’s guess. Then they got older and started driving and using axes and chainsaws and power tools, but still no ER visits. How could this be?

I don’t believe in luck or coincidence. So those were ruled out. I know my boys were not excessively careful. So, that’s out. I’m sure God had plans for them which required them to live, but a few stitches now and then wouldn’t have changed those plans. So what was it?

Finishing up a class with Dr. Derek Thomas, I think I may have an answer. Guardian angels, maybe more than one per child. He was commenting on how God assigns “guardians” to us to bring us “all the way to glory.” What a comforting thought. I have joked in the past that some of us need the really big, brawny angels to keep us from harm. Some of us need more than one. I don’t know exactly how it works, but I am glad God sends them.

Our boys have made it to adulthood. Number 1 is a teacher, #2 is a pastor, #3 is a surgical technician. They are all trained to help people in different ways. We are about to embark on a family vacation. We may need to employ all their skills with all six grandchildren together. I hope #3 can just relax, but should we need him, I’ve heard good things about his suturing skills. Maybe we can still avoid the ER. And I am also confident that same band of guardians is still on duty, along with another squad, maybe a platoon, either way, we’re in good hands, granite rocks and all.

“He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:10-11 ESV)

A Little Room, Please

I needed to get my steps in before the day became unbearably hot. Gathering all the necessary gear: water, phone, pedometer, poop bag, leash…where is Yué’s leash? In the playroom, of course, there’s a two-year-old running amuck. Out the door we went, stopping 10 feet from the front door to poop. The dog, that is.

Some of you know Yué, most of you don’t. My professional dog colleagues would describe her as having “poor composition.” The rest of you would say, “she ain’t right.” Both are accurate. Regardless of how you feel about Pit Bulls, this Pit mix doesn’t look particularly friendly. She is, but it’s that composition/not right thing that would give you pause. Is she snarling? Nope, her lip is just stuck in her teeth…always.

She has been staying with us for the last 10 days, along with my son, his wife, and the two littles, while some work is being done on their home. It’s been fun, and I have a walking buddy, since Doug has been busy. So, we hit the pavement and are walking briskly up the first hill. I see a woman walking briskly down the hill. She has a definite advantage at moving briskly. I position myself on the right side of the sidewalk. This puts Yué between us. I know you’re thinking, well that was dumb. Why didn’t you put the dog on your right side? There’s a simple explanation. Habit, not the nun kind.

After 20+ years of Seeing Eye puppies, I still walk dogs, all dogs, on the left. Yué is in no way, shape, or form a service dog. Service dogs are smart. Yué’s not only a few fries short of a Happy Meal, what fries she has are a little undercooked. But, she’s family.

So, we’re walking. She’s on my left, and there are small trees on my right, giving me nowhere to go. The lady coming toward us has choices. She can move into the grass between the sidewalk and the curb. Or she can step into the street. That would also give us the proper 6’ social distancing protocol, since neither of us is wearing a facemask. I realize too late that Downhill Walking Briskly Lady is not going to yield an inch. I have no time to get Yué into the street without taking out DWBL. Sidebar—I don’t care if you are the Dog Whisperer himself, if you are approaching a dog you don’t know, you ought to give him some room. Not to mention the fact that this woman doesn’t know me. She has no idea if I can handle this weird-looking Pitt-mutt, straining at her leash making throaty, gasping sounds. I’m not too sure myself.

 I’ve got Yué on a nice, short leash right next to me, so the worst I hope will happen is this woman will get slimed. But it’s her own fault. So, we make the pass. Yué slimes her. (She’s lucky we just started out. If this had been a mile in, Yué would have worked up a good lather, which she likes to fling, splattering everything in its wake, and landing in an perfect circle encompassing her head.) I say, “No, Yué.” We get a few steps farther, and I say, “Good girl, Yué.” A smarter dog might wonder if it was corrected or praised. Trust me, this dog doesn’t care. 

Some things to remember when you come across an unfamiliar dog or dog walker:

  1. Give them extra room.
  2. Ask from a distance if the dog is friendly and IF you can approach it.
  3. Assume the person handling the dog really can’t handle the dog and refer to #1.
  4. Never, ever, allow you, your children, or your dog to distract a real service dog.

A Father’s Whistle

My husband has magical powers. When our kids were young, Doug whistled, and our children magically appeared. No matter what they were doing or who they were with, when they heard that whistle, they came running. They knew their dad’s whistle. They ignored other whistles, but not his. Even now, with the boys all grown up with their own children, I’d be willing to bet, if their dad whistled, the boys would at least turn their heads toward him.

I’m not sure how it started. But having three boys, I imagine Doug whistled to get their attention because they were doing something they shouldn’t. But it was most often used when we were out somewhere, like the Little League fields, and the boys were scattered all over. One whistle, and our family was reunited and ready to go in a matter of seconds.

I can’t whistle. I mean, I can whistle a little bit, but it’s mostly air with a slight melodic sound to it. I sound like Wheezy from Toy Story—the little plastic penguin with a worn-out squeaker. My husband’s whistle is not weak or squeaky. It’s ear piercing, and he does it effortlessly. He has done it automatically, without warning, if he saw that one of the boys needed immediate attention. If I happened to be standing close to him in those moments, my ears would ring for a while. Maybe that explains my poor hearing now, hmm.

My husband hasn’t needed to use his whistle in a very long time. It’s not that he doesn’t whistle at all. His child-calling whistle isn’t the only whistle he has. He can imitate almost any bird. He’s had long conversations with a number of birds. I don’t know what he’s saying to them, but I’m pretty sure he invited one of them to move in with us. It built its nest in our dryer exhaust, which required it to enter the outside vent and make two 90-degree turns to get to the dryer. Doug needs to stop whistling to birds.

As I was doing my daily Bible reading one day, I came across a verse that reminded me of those days when Doug would call the boys with his whistle. God said, “I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before.” (Zechariah 10:8 ESV) How cool is that? God, our Abba Father, will call us in with a whistle. This portion of Zechariah is a prophecy of the end times. I wonder if that trumpet blast we wait anxiously to hear is God whistling for us. I know how loud my husband’s whistle can be, so I’m sure God’s whistle could be a trumpet blast that will be heard to the ends of the earth. I don’t know about you, but when my Abba, Father, whistles, I plan to drop everything and run to Him. Finally, it will be time to go home, to be gathered in together with all my brothers and sisters to be united with our Father. Our brother, Jesus, promises He will come soon to gather us up with Him. I’ll be watching the clouds, praying He comes quickly, and listening for that unmistakable whistle.

My Family Was Racist

I will admit it, my family was racist. We try to whitewash it, but my grandmother’s generation talked about black people in a way that could only be considered racist. They were born just before or after 1900 in Philadelphia. One great aunt, who never married, lived and worked in the city until she was about ninety years old.

I would pick her up from her home in Olney (pronounced Ol-eh-nee, like Ack-a-mee [Acme] by locals) for special events and visits to our house in the suburbs. As we would turn onto Olney Ave., she always commented, with a sweeping wave of her hand, “Olney used to be such a nice neighborhood, but now it’s all black.” We forced her to leave the city after she was mugged a second time, breaking her shoulder. Her neighborhood was too dangerous. She blamed the “blacks.”

Another great aunt lived a few blocks from us. She was not at all happy when a black couple moved into the home next to hers. She couldn’t believe “blacks were coming to Lansdale.” She had a “there goes the neighborhood” attitude, sure that “blacks didn’t take care of their homes.” But over the first year of being neighbors, her attitude changed. She didn’t receive any race-relation education or had any sort of spiritual awakening. What made the difference were the black people living next to her. They were really nice. They took good care of their home and offered help with hers. They were kind to her, and their kindness and character changed her. Dr. King would have been proud.

My mother’s generation wasn’t as overtly racist, and I am sure my mom never taught us to be racist. But I don’t remember her ever teaching us that people of other races were no different than us and should be treated as such. She did have one mantra that I remember, “kill them with kindness.” If someone mistreated you, be kind in return.

The town I grew up in simply didn’t have many black people in it. There were none in my elementary school. Then in sixth grade a new student joined our class. He was from Uganda, East Africa. Wow, I wondered why he came to live in my small Pennsylvania town. It didn’t take long to find out. Our teacher asked him to share why his family had moved from Africa to the United States. He said that in his home country, a very bad man, Idi Amin, was killing people who, in his opinion, didn’t have dark enough skin. Since this boy’s family had lighter skin than the average African, his father decided it wasn’t safe for them in Uganda, so they escaped and fled to the United States.

I remember thinking how awful to be at risk of being killed because of the color of your skin. They were able to bring their whole family with them. At least they had each other to start a new life in a new country—a country offering freedom for people of all skin colors. This experience changed my thinking toward black people. My family was wrong. A person’s skin color didn’t make them any better for worse than anyone else. It was their character that counted. Racism in my family was losing its grip.

My family’s come a long way in just a few generations. Racial barriers have been demolished as people of different races became family members. I think my grandmother’s generation would be happy about the change, because they would have the privilege of knowing and loving other races as family. I believe our country has come a long way too, but obviously we still have work to do. Like any family, Americans won’t all hold the same political, spiritual, or moral beliefs, but we can still show love and kindness to one another because that’s what family does.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 4:31-5:1 ESV)