I’m sitting here blown away, humbled, inspired, motivated and now I’m writing. I’m late to the party and there are reasons for this – some justified and some not. But here I am. I want to be real in a way that I have never been on the platform that is my sewing business. I’m about to break a bunch of my own rules and to share a part of me that I’ve typically kept private. I’m fairly certain that some would tell me not to dare this but I hope you’ll stay with me here because my desire is not to alienate a single person, but to hopefully inspire someone to take a deep breath and maybe realize your teeth are clenched and they need to relax. I’m going to share things that I know not everyone reading is going to agree with but my goal is not to make you agree with me. Rather I think you will still be inspired by the voices and speakers that I’m going to link to below. So skim over my many words. They aren’t the best part. They are just my own experience in navigating through the noise the last few weeks. But listen to the videos. They will amaze you. Pretty sure.
This is all words. I don’t have any pretty images of sewing projects here and since I’m not a real blogger, I’m not sure how to make this aesthetically pleasing for readers, but I think if you’re here for this one, you didn’t come for pictures.
Racism. Black Lives Matter. Systemic Racism. All Lives Matter. Police brutality. Blacks vs Whites. “I’m not racist.” Rioting. Looting. “It’s political.” “No, it’s not.” “This isn’t the space.” “Say it or you’re racist.” “Say it NOW or you’re racist.” Tear gas. “No, there wasn’t tear gas.”……. Did that make your heart start racing? Or was it already racing just from being on social media today? What a world we live in and what a time we are in!!! Like so many people, I was already emotional and angry at social media from all the virus craziness so my personal limit with social media (and humanity, in general) was already at its limit BEFORE Mr. Floyd’s life was taken.
I’ve been struggling with how to process this. My geographical position on this earth places me quite far from the hot zone in the current fights for equality of black people. Reality for me is that I can count on my fingers – I think even on one hand alone – how many black people live within a 300km radius of where I live and almost every one of them holds some positive roll of leadership or authority in our community. So even though I can “live” on social media and technology can make the world so much smaller, it’s what goes on in our REAL lives that shapes us the most. So, I struggled (still do) with just how to process what I know is real, but doesn’t feel real when I close my laptop.
I’m a white woman. My hair is (was 🙄) blonde. My eyes are mostly blue. My parents never divorced. I went to a private school off and on for my education. Basically, I’m well aware that visibly and socially I fit into the North America of this generation pretty effortlessly. I’m aware of this, but I’ll admit when it comes to conversations of race and privilege, I feel very unequipped on how to deal with who I am and what I’ve been given. I’ve been very overwhelmed to the point of feeling long moments of hopelessness because I can’t change these realities and I admit, I feel like I’m supposed to feel guilty for those parts of my life while knowing deep down, that’s not the way this is supposed to work. Change doesn’t work through guilt and we weren’t all supposed to be the same.
So, coming to a place of feeling like I’m about to really experience change was a bit slower than some of you. And also probably a bit quicker than others. Dang it, if there’s one thing I’ve been aware of, it’s the fact that we each have a different time line. We do not all learn at the same speed. Not to mention we don’t learn about the SAME THINGS at the same time. There are people, even in this time of bringing awareness about real racial problems in our society, that are dealing with sickness, disease, family deaths, and all sorts of other concerns right now. They are literally not in a mentally stable place and unable to go deep into learning the roots of racism in this season of their life and at this moment. That’s what is so great about living in community if we dare to tap into that. I can learn this now and then later when someone else is ready, I can share with them what I learned today. And they can share with me what THEY were dealing with during this time so we can benefit from each other’s experiences. We’re made to do this together! We’re not supposed to place expectations on others that were placed on US. Deal with what YOU are supposed to learn and don’t be extra worried that everyone else has to learn it with you. If you’re more concerned about whether everyone else learned it, you’re very likely missing something in yourself. This isn’t a free pass for someone to skip class. It’s recognizing that you can’t change all your faults in one day and neither can the next person. This is a process and too many people are giving it a deadline that ended a week ago. That simply can’t be true or we’re done for.
People, this is why I love God so much in my life. He knows I’m a mess and that I have a long list of things I need to learn and fix. He knows it’s to my benefit and the benefit of those around me that I fix those problems of mine and He’s not going to just sit there and let it go when I let ugliness show its head in my life. But He also doesn’t wake me up in the morning tapping His foot with a pen and pad of paper a foot thick and an expectation that I fix all those problems by nightfall. No. His mercies are new EVERY morning. So when I wake up and grab my coffee and I hear Him saying, “Let’s work on this one today.” I don’t need to be overwhelmed to the point of hopelessness at all the things I need to do and I can get cracking on the one set before me that day. This week and today in particular, it was my personal prejudices and a look at why my heels are dug in that He wanted to focus on.
Something I’m kicking myself for today is that I made a rookie mistake. I let FB lead my learning this last week. Why would I do that? Why didn’t someone stop me? Everyone knows that FB is not real life. It’s the place where people go to show the life we WISH we were living. It’s the place where, yes, we make friends the are super real to us and we connect with IRL friends, but so, SO often it is where we forget that another human being is on the other side of our words. We see a name and a profile pic and maybe we see more if they are an actual friend of ours, but (and I’m talking specifically about FB groups where the vast majority of the people are not personal friends of yours) there is no emotional connection. There’s nothing that forces us to see the person as more than a profile pic. And an evil profile pic, at that!! So the things that are impacting the other person – their character, their personality traits, their family dynamics, their country, their culture, their struggles… all those things that guide us to really know how to read a person is non-existent. We have no choice but to impose our own passions and emotions onto the words that someone else typed and, WOW, it never works. The energy that I have to put into reading a viral post is intense.
“Oo, ouch! That was harsh. Maybe they had a hard day. I wonder if someone has hurt them extra in that matter.” To see a viral post and ask those kinds of questions before reacting is wise. But to expect that of any human being is assuming that they have literally nothing else to do that day. I realized (a good while too late) that I should’ve been shutting down the noise and looking into the sources that I knew I respected so I could hear without my heels dug in. Do you know what I mean? Not because I didn’t want to change and grow and not because I didn’t already know the value of a human life, but when it feels like someone is screaming at me, I just want to shut down. Maybe you feel the same.
When it comes to learning and applying what I need to know about black lives, I don’t have the same face-to-face opportunities so I needed to search leaders that have spoken to me at other times as well. Yesterday morning I heard the first one and I felt my heart started softening. My heels weren’t dug in as deep. Here’s the strange thing – the words I was hearing were actually very similar to the social media words, but, folks, do not disregard the power of human connection and relationship. Yes, a well worded meme by a stranger can hit you and make you think, but much more often it’s the words of a friend or someone you respect because of other times they’ve spoken into your life that make them the “good space” to work out the hard questions. FB groups simply do not have that and if they do, it likely means that either it’s a group of people that are like-minded anyway or the person leading that group is very specially gifted and you better appreciate them because they are rare!!
Ok, the good stuff. Here’s the journey I went on this morning before sitting down to write this. First person I went to was Priscilla Shirer on IG. This woman has an incredible ability to speak to all ages and everyone feels like she is so relevant to them personally. She’s a speaker and writer and in the past decade I’ve had the huge pleasure of learning from a few of her Bible studies. She is GIFTED like few others. I clicked on “follow,” first of all, because I’m not sure why I wasn’t already, and then I scrolled back in her IG to the approximate date of Mr. Floyd’s death because I wanted to know how she, as a black woman and leader, was dealing with this. There’s a number of really good posts, but this one here, is the one where I started getting really emotional and I felt the walls crumbling down. It’s a conversation in the living room with her father as he speaks to his family about the current events.
Something started stirring in my heart while watching that and I felt very much like maybe I needed to step up and speak. Not because I’m a big, well known personality or leader, but because I AM a leader in a small way and I can say “Leave the speaking for the ones with REAL influence.” Or I can say, “If I believe that God sees me as a teensy human being in the Milky Way, then I probably should act like it and believe that my small area of influence could make a difference in some way. So from here I went to go visit Christine Caine because this suddenly became more a of “Sofiona” connection. I don’t know Christine so it’s not a personal connection, but a portion of all our pattern sales go to an organization called A21 that exists to fight human slavery existing in our world today. Christine Caine is the founder of A21 so when I saw her appear on that video with Priscilla and her dad I realized I needed to go search out my next person and she is humbly and yet actively vocal on this issue!!
Now, Christine’s IG is full of things to read and hear and inspire change, but I went straight in on this conversation with Dr. Anita Phillips because she was also on that video with Priscilla and her dad and when Priscilla mentioned how articulate and wise Anita is within her area of expertise as a mental health worker and advocate for racial restoration, I knew I was headed her way next anyway!! It was bonus that I got to hear Christine and Anita together. This is an hour and a half. This is not to be rushed through. In fact, I recommend setting aside more than that because if you’re like me, you’ll be going back and watching portions over and over because you just KNOW there’s something more you need to grasp. Dr. Phillips…. I don’t even know how to word this. Let’s just say she should be very happy Covid closed the border because I would be the most needy person on her porch asking her to talk to me every day. I have so many questions for her. I was trying to eat while watching this and never has someone distracted me from putting food in my mouth the way this woman did. Just when I thought I got the big “aha” moment for the video, she’d hit me another one. And then another one. It went on like that for this entire video as she described how much our ethnicities influence our lives in EVERY way!! I would love it if everyone took the time to hear her words all the way through this and to do that, you need to have the time and space to focus. I really, really encourage taking that time. There are jewels of wisdom from start to finish.
After all that, I’m fired up! And finally it’s for a good reason. Finally I can be fired up by something that prompts me to think. I was hindered for a time, not by all the anger on social media, because anger in itself is not the problem, but by the hatred and complete lack of grace that blanketed over the anger and hurt. I’m upset that, as a human being, I’m hindered by that because it would be amazing to always be able to see past the words and into the heart’s of all the people I can’t see on the other side of the internet. I let myself be caught up in “They should not be treating people’s livelihoods and property that way!!” and let’s be clear, while I can bring myself to understand it, I still don’t believe that the destruction that has occurred was right, but I live in a broken world and one of the first things that I believe God showed me was that I was very, very wrong to be surprised at the destruction. It was humans that brought about slavery, human trafficking, mistreatment of each other. How on earth am I sitting here in shock that when an explosion of hurt happens, we as humans didn’t all respond with Christ-like kindness towards each other?! I am owning it here, that that came from an ignorant place within me. I need to go forward from this place knowing that people don’t always respond the way I want them to or the way they should, but what matters is that those areas of brokenness can be redeemed. And, Father, let us see what the redemption of this mess can look like!! And let us see it soon!!
In my FB group, I was asked what my stand is on black lives. Now I mentioned earlier that I’ve been slow to the party for both justified and unjustified reasons. Like I said, when I close my laptop, this isn’t the reality around me so like the rain from upstream takes time getting to the other end of the river, it took more time to get to me and I was still wrestling with how I should respond and how I wanted to. In that moment I gave this following response.
I meant every word of that statement. But once I post this blog post, I’m going to replace it with this because now that I have had the time to hear past the noise, I’m ready to give the answer I would’ve given in my own timeline. The “elephant in the room” so to speak, is that I’ve brought God into this. To answer this question without, is asking me for lip service and memes. And while lip service and memes seem to be what we’re comfortable with in today’s world, it also appears incredibly disingenuous. “Quick! Slap a meme up or they’ll think you do/don’t agree!” That’s not me and I don’t know how to approach this without Him. If I’ve posted memes in my life, it was probably a really sarcastic one. That’s how I roll. I believe in my heart of hearts that my response to what I’m learning in all matters HAS to be 99% in real life and 1% on social media. Now, I could be wrong on that. Tomorrow morning when I get my coffee, God might say, “Sherri, today we’re going to work on living more of your life on FB.”, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say probably not.
We are continuously learning and we must be seeking to change. My status quo, while blessed and covered in grace, is not where I stop. I have not “arrived”. I must be willing to step forward. I crave to know grace more than I crave most things. To fully understand the grace given to me means it can overflow from me to those around me. I want the ability to stop and ask, “What might have prompted that person to do this or that?” and I want that question to become more and more natural in my life. I can’t even imagine what a world we would live in if others were given the benefit of the doubt in more situations. It’s hard though! I don’t think we realize how much of our expectations of other people directly reflects what we think is expected of us. It’s a vicious circle. We feel so pressured to be perfect for everyone, in all things and at all times so we won’t offend anyone or make anyone angry. It’s exhausting and we just want someone to give us a break, but then we need to give it too.
In the same way that truth and reality and learning don’t hit us all on the same day and in the same way and at the same speed, application doesn’t look the same either. Applying what people in other countries are learning and wrestling through is going to look different everywhere. In my community – the place I see when I shut the TV off and close the laptop – there exists a very similar and yet different racial tension with the indigenous people of this part of the world. The words of Dr. Phillips in the IG video I shared earlier resonated loud and clear to me when I considered the issues around me here. I believe that once we learn something we are now further responsible for our actions. So, what I didn’t realize I was doing/thinking/acting out was and is an honest shame and yet I better not let that cripple me. Now once I’ve been given the knowledge and I refuse to act on it, that’s where it becomes more than just a “shame”. Now I’m walking on dangerous ground. So my responsibility is to apply this knowledge in my own reality. I need to start seeing faces differently. Understand behaviours in a different light. That’s how I need to work it out here.
I titled this To Fight or Not to Fight. I didn’t think that through, my fingers typed that without me and when that happens I pay attention. I think it showed what my deepest question is because I’ve always been taught not to fight and that’s what I tell my kids. So I have some more searching to do. Today was not the end of my learning. I still need to live my life and feed my kids and take care of my responsibilities so I need to allow myself the grace to keep learning as the days go on. One of the things that I need to lean into is to what I believe is the greatest textbook of all. I want to know what does it look like to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith? How much of my Christian walk is affected by past North American culture and where did I miss what He said behind the veil of that culture I learned in? What about protesting? Priscilla’s dad mentioned Paul protesting in Acts 16 and yup, he did! I read that with my girls just a couple months ago and I remember being a bit taken aback by it. It didn’t seem right somehow. Now today it’s getting clearer. What does God say about those around us who are hurting? Romans 12 says, “Mourn with those that mourn.” BE there. Don’t pretend they aren’t hurting. Romans 12 also says, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We see evil around us, we can’t pretend it isn’t there and we can’t let it overcome us. To just be glad it didn’t touch us, is not the right approach either. So, I have a lot of learning ahead of me still.
I’ll leave you with this. You now, for better or worse, know a lot more about me. There is an expectation out there for people to speak up and people are being given a timeline in which it’s “right” to speak. I want to encourage you not to be sucked into that belief. Two weeks ago, if it was demanded of me to speak my thoughts, my initial reaction would be the typical, “Of course I love all people!!”, but I was still missing some key things and I’m not finished gathering more. I strongly encourage to keep your focus on YOU. When you have learned, share what you have learned humbly and with passion and kindness. Some of us need to be in the “Shut up and listen!” chair and some of you are ready to speak. We need to work this out together and give others the breaks we know we want too.
I’ve mentioned A21 in this and I didn’t want to stop the flow of what I was writing with non-topic links, but now that we are at the bottom of this, I will say that if you want to see a bit more about our connection with A21, follow this link to our storefront where we share a bit about that organization. I can tell you that after spending time today learning more about Christine herself and her passion to not just speak about change but her passion to work at seeing the change, I’m even more excited to know that Sofiona’s money is going towards such a motivated organization.