“White” Is a Racial Construct

I am not white

Have you ever wondered if your words or actions are racist? Are you sure they aren’t? Is claiming “I’m not racist!” enough? Can a person protect and promote systemic racism without even realizing it? Is ignorance a good excuse?

Recently, one of my friends inquired as to why I am suddenly so passionate about racism in America—she didn’t say “suddenly,” but it does feel that way. I’ve gone my entire adult life assuming I was an ally, but I’m not sure that’s true. The more I learn, the more I wonder if I’ve actually enabled and supported systems designed to hold back and oppress people of color. 

I officially stepped into the conversation about white privilege in 2016 when I joined the Be the Bridge to Racial Reconciliation Facebook group. When a white person joins the group, s/he agrees to remain silent and listen for three months. Not only are you prohibited from posting in the group, you’re also prohibited from commenting on other folks’ posts. Violation of this rule gets you banned from the group. It’s a good and important rule.

Silence Forced Me to Listen and Learn

The silent rule forced me into the role of student, not teacher. It required me to keep my mouth shut (and my fingers off the keyboard) when my first inclination was to chime in and offer advice/feedback/input while unwittingly minimizing other members’ experiences.

Waking up to white privilege and systemic racism has been hard, and I would not have made it this far without the encouragement of friends and mentors who encouraged me to listen to people who are different than I am.

By expanding the circle of authors I read, speakers I listen to, and people I follow on social media, I’ve become much more aware of the ways I subconsciously participate in an inherited, stratified system which over-values whiteness, oppresses the poor, and dehumanizes the different.

Modern-Day Racism

Debating the existence and effects of racism in America is uncomfortable for many white folks like me, and it’s tempting to turn a blind eye to the problem. To change the channel. To click over to another page. To look away before making eye contact. To walk on the other side of the street.

But, if you’re able to ignore (or deny) the problem of racism, then—whether you realize it or  not—you are exercising white privilege. People of color don’t have that option. They can’t ignore it or deny its existence. It’s in their face every day. All day. 

With white privilege comes much responsibility.

So, I’m determined to learn about my own hidden biases despite how opening my eyes and looking in the mirror makes me feel. I want to be a woman who elevates the voices and lives of those who have struggled to be seen and heard for far too long. I will be a catalyst for difficult conversations between white adults who need to join me on this journey of waking up. I want to be an ally. And being an ally requires  diligence and re-education..

Re-Educating Myself about Racism

When I asked my friends what I should read, one book was recommended more than any other: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by best-selling author Beverly Daniel Tatum.

In this compelling and insightful book, Tatum documents the experiences of people of color in public schools and many other public spaces. “People of Color” or POC is the term used to refer to African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinx Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Island Americans, and others of non-European descent.

The author shares the story of a young black student who is the target of a racist comment by one of her teachers. When the student shares her experience—the comment and how it affected her—with her best friend who is white, she is further-traumatized when her friend dismisses the comment by saying something like “Oh, he didn’t mean it that way. He’s not a racist.” THAT’S why Be the Bridge has the “3-months of silence” rule for new white members. It’s like they knew that we needed to spend some time listening without the opportunity to minimize and further traumatize brothers and sisters of color. Smart.

Learning to keep my mouth shut is probably going to be a lifelong process for me. The first month of silence was hard: I had not yet realized I was the stereotypical white girl who wanted to fix all the things. The second month of silence was a bit easier. By third month, I understood how very little I had to contribute to the conversation and how my words could easily have the opposite effect of what I was hoping to say. And I don’t post very much in that group at all. They have opened my eyes to what life is often like for people of color in this country.

I’m appalled at the ignorance and racism so many exhibit on a regular basis. I’m determined NOT to be a part of it.

How I am waking up…

Over the next few months, I’m going to detail my ongoing journey to “wokeness” (I have NOT arrived), because it’s just way too much to include in one blog post. I invite you to join me in conversation as I share my own personal experiences with people of color—both traumatic childhood experiences that shaped my view and adult friends and mentors who have helped—and are still helping—me figure out how to be an ally, not an adversary.

I will share websites, podcasts, books (and audiobooks), social media feeds, and other resources that are helping me understand white privilege in America and how that lines up (or not) with the good news of Jesus Christ.

I am not an expert on racial reconciliation, and I have no solutions to offer. All I can do is invite you to join me on the journey. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is not to evaluate my journey but to humbly examine your own. The challenge is to take a long, hard look at your words, actions, and attitudes with an open mind, and if you see something that needs to be changed, you commit to changing it.

The goal: Be more like Jesus.

Are you in? Comment below if you’re up for the challenge. 

“Being Brave Is Hard”

Being Brave Is Hard

Being Brave Is Hard
by Laura Zielke

God doesn’t always ask us to do the easy things.
Sometimes He asks us to do the hard things.
I mean HARD. Really hard!
Something we could NEVER do under our own strength.
Something we would never do without HIS prodding.
Something requiring EVERY OUNCE of courage we have (plus more).
It will be UNCOMFORTABLE.
CHALLENGING.
DARING.
TOO BIG.
And it will have serious CONSEQUENCES.
Consequences we CANNOT control.
Consequences which may
—or may not—
be in our favor.
It’s almost TOO MUCH to ask.

But then, the choice IS ours, isn’t it?
We have FREEDOM of choice.

We could choose to OBEY.
To be BRAVE.
To let God take care of any CONSEQUENCES.
Because it’s not about us, is it?

OR

We could choose to SHUT DOWN.
Close our eyes. Plug our ears.
Sing “fa la la la la” until it all goes away.
Because,
in the end,
it’s all about us, isn’t it?
Our comfort.
Our strength.
Our reputations.

Bottom line:
It’s a choice.

Oh, LORD.
Make me strong!
Make me HEAR your voice.
Help me KNOW it’s YOU,
not I,
who is calling me to this
difficult task.

Help me rely on YOUR strength.
Guide me by YOUR Spirit.
Give me words to speak–
only YOUR words to speak.
Keep ME out of it.

And somehow…
Some way…
Make YOUR will known.

Even if it means people think differently about me.
Even if the consequences are unfavorable.
Place YOUR words in my heart, and light them on fire.
Let them burn in my soul until I have garnered
the strength to speak them.
Out loud.
To deliver YOUR message to the recipients.
And let me leave NOTHING out.
Let me speak every word.
And then let me walk away in peace.
For I have done what was required of me.
And I answer only to YOU.

Amen.

“But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,’
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.”
Jeremiah 20:9

Love Songs & Unselfish Love

Unselfish Love

Love is in many ways fine:
      Like a nickel, like a dime.
But love is more valuable to me
      Than one, two, or even three…

And so begins one of the most *ahem* “memorable” poems I’ve ever written.  (I won’t make you suffer through the rest of it.) Judging by my handwriting at the time, I’m guessing I was around nine or ten years old when I penned that masterpiece. Back in the day, apparently, those two silver coins represented huge value for me, because I compared them to the one thing everyone on the planet desires: LOVE.

It should come as no surprise that my nickel and dime view of love wouldn’t last forever. As I entered the teen years, my experience of love shifted from coins in my pocket to “teardrops on my guitar.” (Well, make that my pillow. Taylor Swift, I am not.)

All the Feels

In high school, hormones had me convinced that love was a feeling (or more than a feeling)—one I couldn’t fight anymore. When “the feels” eventually subsided or my heart was broken, that all-consuming “love” evaporated into thin air. And then, I was all out of love, and so lost without ____________ (fill in the blank). Emotion took me over—tied up with sorrow; lost in my soul. And time? It kept flowing. Like a river.

As I matured, I struggled to wrap my mind around that crazy little thing called “love.” It’s such an ambiguous term, we shouldn’t be shocked that people go looking for love in all the wrong places. For with this singular word love, I express my passion for penguins, “The Princess Bride,” dark chocolate, football, and family.

If I were to explain the power of love according to hit singles on the radio, it might sound a little bit like this… Click here to continue reading my devotional at “Rooted at the Throne” hosted by Rachael Carman. 

“Me in Three Words” Challenge

Me in Three Words Challenge

Yesterday, I was listening to a webinar where the host challenged us to e-mail five of our friends with this request: “Describe me in three words.” The original purpose of this exercise was to help listeners narrow down the focus of a book or blog or talk in order to write in our own voice—not someone else’s. Since completing the challenge, though, I have realized this is an amazing method anyone can use to monitor where they are on the path to becoming the person they’ve always wanted to be. 

*** If you take the challenge, let me know by commenting below. ***

The result of this exercise is to learn how others see you and experience you. Don’t be shocked if you’re surprised with some of the responses. The fact is, we are often “stuck in the past” with distorted images of ourselves which no longer match our current life situation. Over time, with great effort, we change. We grow. We mature. We develop. We blossom.

Oftentimes, “new” friends see character traits in us that we can’t fathom in ourselves. They see us for who we are, not who we used to be. This can be a refreshing shift in perspective, or possibly a snap back to reality for those of us who think we are doing better than we actually are. Reality checks, though sometimes painful, are super-necessary in life—especially for the person who wishes to become the best, most authentic version of himself or herself.

“Describe Me in Three Words”

Do you recognize yourself in their words, or are they sharing something with you that you thought you’d lost years ago? Do they see the real you? Are you ready to embrace that person? Or possibly do you need to change the reflection? You’ll never know unless you ask. 

All I did was ask, and I kept it very simple. Here’s the email I sent:

Dear ____________,

I was listening to a webinar yesterday, and I was challenged to write to five friends with this request: “Describe me in three words.”

Will you do that for me? Pretty please?

Thank you,
Laura

I encourage you to give it a shot. First start with five of your more recent friends (people who have known you less than five years). After that, if you’re feeling brave, move to long-term friends (people who have known you at least 5 years). And if you’re still feeling brave, email your family (but only if your relationships with them are healthy—no need to reinforce negativity or dysfunction). If you think someone is going to be insulting or sarcastic, don’t bother adding them to your email list for this experiment.

Three Words Can Change Your Perspective!

Taking this challenge was scary, but I’m glad I did it. My friends’ responses showed me that I’m on the right track for becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be…and that’s a good thing, considering I’ll be 50 next year!!! Finally, I’m getting there. I haven’t arrived, for sure; however, I’m on the right track, and on some level, that is comforting. 

Identify your themes. Look through the list of words you’ve received and group similar words/concepts together. For example: If one friend uses the word “compassion” and another friend uses the word “compassionate,” then you would group those together. Another example: If one friend says “contemplative” and another friend says “deep thinker,” group those together. Once you have the words grouped by theme, take a good look and see which themes occurred most often.

My top three themes were: 

Compassionate ~ Studious ~ Deep Thinker

The “compassionate” description surprised me more than “studious” and “deep thinker”—although I never knew my friends thought of me as “deep.” I have to testify that if I have any compassion in me, it is from the Lord. And I would also like to mention that “compassion” was not on my husband’s list of three words for me!
*cough* *man flu is real* *cough*

I hope you take this challenge and start with your newest friends! Then work backwards if you feel like it. The goal is to start off the year with a more objective, realistic view of who you are rooted in truth.

*** If you take the challenge, let me know by commenting below. ***

You’ll find the results are definitely insight-full.

An Open Letter to My Favorite Christian Women Authors: Enough!

Enough

Dear Favorite Christian Women Authors,

I love you! Thank you for following God’s calling on your life and writing amazing, best-selling books. Your words have positively impacted my life in many ways, and God has used you to draw me closer to Him. But I can’t follow you on social media anymore—at least for a while—until I catch my breath. I’ve had enough. Let’s just blame it on your publishers, so we can stay friends, ok?

The last month has been overwhelming, and I need a break. Although I will miss the numerous updates on your recent book launch, encouraging quotes from your new book, inspiration for spiritual growth, and cottage-like photos with pretty script letters, I’m out. For now.

In the past month alone, I’ve participated in multiple book launches with you amazingly organized and talented women who love to write. You’ve dominated my newsfeed with pre-launch, launch, and post-launch posts, and I just can’t take it anymore. #stillafan

I think I passed the fangirl tipping point when two of you launched your instant NY Times Best Sellers on the very same day followed less than a week later by another book launch from a fellow authoress and a few days later, another one…with more on the way. You’re connected to each other through a complex web of agents, editors, and publishers, and often tour together as part of incredibly successful women’s conferences, cruises, and conventions. When you really want to see your favorite authors succeed, it can be overwhelming when a publishing tsunami hits the marketplace.

I think my burnout began when I, as someone who aspires to do this myself someday, became caught up in the excitement of each one of your book launches. I decided on my own—yes, I take full responsibility for allowing my schedule to be hijacked—to follow your instructions and help you have a successful book launch (as if I have that kind of power!).

So, I did what you asked: Prior to each book launch, I joined your unofficial launch crew. I shared your upcoming book…and quotes from your book and pretty graphics about your book (a.k.a. ads) and links to your website on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. I also visited your websites multiple times while participating in your launch contests, so I could help you get the word out. Thanks, Gleam!

I watched your pre-launch live interviews online, and then joined the live launch parties to celebrate your achievements right along with you in real-time. Then, I watched your post-launch interviews with the media, and sat in awe as I observed you sharing each other’s books on Instagram. Oh, and let’s not forget the most important part of the launch process: I handed over my hard-earned cash to purchase your book, and I’m reading it now. (This was actually my favorite part, to be honest, since I love books! In fact, that’s why I started following you in the first place!)

But our marketing relationship didn’t end there like I assumed it would. Instead, it grew.

Somehow, I ended up on the post-launch crew (I’m still completely unaware how this happened, as I was in a state of zombie-like alertness after the previous weeks of launch and pre-launch activities) where I was encouraged to:

  • “Start a book club!”
  • “Join my Facebook group!”
  • “Join my online Bible Study!”
  • “Tweet!”
  • “Share!”
  • “Watch us live!”
  • “Join us this week for ____________.”
  • “Download my app!”
  • “Be part of the amazing experience!”
  • “Sign-up for this extra-special email campaign, so you can get  the most out of my new book!” (Which turned out to be another form of advertising with “Buy Now” and “Have you bought the book yet?” buttons)
  • “Come see me speak! I’ll be at the [ *Insert modern, memorable conference name here complete with eye-catching graphics, fancy logos, and headshots of other speakers* ] Conference.” No, it’s not free. It’s expensive. It’s out of town, and you’ll need to get a hotel. And food. And arrange for childcare. But it will be worth it!!! Girlfriend time!!! And, besides, we want you there, so PLEASE COME! You will leave changed. Your life will never be the same. You’ll really miss out if you don’t join us. We’ve lined up an all-star cast of amazing speakers joining us (who also have books and t-shirts and coffee mugs and jewelry and food). But wait! There’s more! Lest you begin wondering if we’ve lost our ever-loving minds—it’s not about us! So, while you’re at our event, we will have opportunities for you to invest in some very worthwhile ministries where you can donate to sponsor a child, donate towards justice, donate to help refugees, donate to help against the fight against human trafficking, and donate to other ministries that need your financial support. Whatever you do, don’t forget your Bible (and your wallet)!

Enough!

Gosh, I feel terrible saying that. But it’s where I am this morning: Enough already!

I love you ladies! I love your ministries! I want to be like you when I grow up! (In fact, I’m wondering if I’m not shooting myself in the foot with this post. I mean, I really do want to write and speak and teach just like you!) You’re smart, beautiful, talented, and tech savvy. You love the Lord with all your heart, and you’re living out His calling on your life. Your passion is inspiring, and it makes me want to hear and read everything you have to say. I want to apply your wisdom and teachings to my life so I can be a better wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, dog owner, blogger, teacher, church member, and, yes, a better American! Really! You rock!!!

I hereby declare 2016 as “The Year of the Christian Woman Author.” Oh, how I wish I could be your biggest fangirl…but I can’t. Not right now.

You see, I’ve got piles of laundry to be washed, dirty dishes in the sink, toilets to clean, and a not-so-little guy that is being neglected while I’m on social media reading, sharing, and re-tweeting your latest posts and cheering you on as you run the race and fight the good fight.

I need a break. Thanks for understanding. 🙂

There are so many of you doing the same thing at the same time that your stylish social media photos are a blur to me. They all look the same: white background, a few plant leaves, some burlap, words in a handwritten scripty font, and maybe a Photoshopped, size-zero, young model with long brunette hair holding something pink, purple, or red for balance and aesthetic appeal.

I’m starting to feel like a target. 

I know that’s not what you want to hear, and it’s definitely not how I want to feel.

The truth is: I feel like your publishers are targeting my demographic with pithy phrases and catchy clichés packaged into cute info-graphics whose sole purpose is to tug at my heart (and purse) strings. Although your goal is to help me embrace that “I am enough,” somehow, their plan is backfiring!

The noise of new book releases has been so loud that it’s sounding like a gong or clanging cymbal (cf. 1 Cor. 13). I do not feel the love; I feel the laser on my forehead.

As someone who has been in advertising and marketing for almost twenty years, I recognize these carefully-crafted corporate campaigns for what they are: targeted advertising with sophisticated strategies of permission marketing with the goal of achieving larger pocket share. Thus, the target on my forehead.Enough!

Guess what? I’m not made of money! Or like my dad always said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” I don’t have the means to buy the books and the bling and the blog-cessories. It’s not in my budget to attend all the conventions, conferences, and cruises. And I can no longer afford to spend my precious time following your fabulous Facebook feeds anymore. Not for a while, anyway.

I need to sort things out. I need space. Margin. Time to reconsider my personal priorities.

Please don’t get me wrong: I think you’re great, and I’m glad you wrote your book! I am reading it, highlighting important phrases, and it’s having an impact on my life. But the amount of hours your publisher is asking me to invest in your project has exceeded the limitations of my free time, and it’s now cutting into the time I should be spending on my own priorities. It’s time for me to set some boundaries.

I’ve decided to unfollow you on social media for a while. Until I have the chance to catch my breath.

You might be wondering how I’m going to invest all this newly freed-up time: Well, first, I’m going to clean my living room. Then, I’m going to sit on my comfy, chocolate-brown recliner in my sparkling clean living space and re-prioritize my life. I’ll carve out alone time and pray to remember what my “first things” are, and then, I will put them first again. I will schedule my priorities; read the Word; read your books; listen for God’s voice; seek discernment and clarity in my own life. And then, I will implement some much-needed change in my life. So, thank you for helping me clarify what I need to do. Like I said, you rock!

I’m guessing (and hoping) that once I have my priorities in proper order, I’ll be back on your virtual marketing team again. And by that time, you’ll probably have another book ready to launch. I will join the publishing party, only this time, on my own terms—my own schedule. I’ll say my best yes (or no), and we’ll celebrate your success again! (And maybe, someday, we can celebrate mine, too!)

So, ta-ta for now! I will miss you, but I know this is what I need to do today.

#unfollowing #stillafan,
Laura

Keys to Understanding Yourself via Personality Assessments

Keys to Understanding Yourself

If you’ve never studied the different personality types before, you’re in for a treat! Although your personality is comprised of characteristics and qualities that make you uniquely you, you  may be surprised (and relieved!) to learn that you’re not the only one who approaches life in this manner.

Introvert Heaven

You’re not the only one who prefers a book to a party (or a party to a book). You’re not the only one who cocoons after being surrounded by a crowd (or seeks a crowd after too much time alone). Learning about your personality is fun and exciting, but why stop with yourself?  

Personality Types Matter

For me, the most rewarding part of understanding my personality came when I learned the personality types of my husband and son and parents and siblings and inlaws and friends. Yes, I enthusiastically asked them all to take the quiz, and they did! It was amazing to see how each person was “pegged” correctly and how insightful the descriptions were regarding how we relate to each other.

Know Your Personality type MBTI

TAKE THESE FREE ONLINE QUIZZES:

Here are a few of my favorite proven-in-real-life online quizzes to help us not only to understand ourselves and each other better, but also to show each other love and appreciation more effectively. Add your personality type in the comment section below! 

KEY #1: Know Your Meyers-Briggs Personality Type

In layman’s terms, the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI) explains our “preferences” (how we act, how we re-energize, how we make decisions) Here’s a link to the best (in my opinion) FREE Meyers Briggs Personality Test on the internet: http://bitbike.com/cgi-bin/pt?language=en  (There’s also a personality test you can take for your children here: http://www.personalitypage.com/html/pqk_indicate.html)

Once you know your 4-letter MBTI personality type, read about it. See if the description fits you (that’s really the best way to know if you were typed correctly). Here are a few good resources to get you started:

KEY #2: Know Your Enneagram Type

The Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) complements the MBTI by providing insight into WHY we act the way we do (i.e., what is our motivation for making the decisions we make?). The sample Enneagram test below will give you enough information for you to figure out your main Type and your secondary Type (“wing”).

It’s important to know your wing, because it has great influence on your main type. To figure out your wing, simply look at your main Type (the type with the highest score), and look at the scores to the immediate right and left. Whichever of the two is the highest, that is your wing. Click here to take the FREE Enneagram Test.

Once you have your main type and your wing, Google is your friend. Simply enter your type & wing followed by the word “Enneagram” and enjoy the learning process! For example, I’m a 1w9, so I would type “1w9 Enneagram” into Google to learn more about my type.

KEY #3: Know Your Love Language

Marriage and family counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman, concluded years ago that people generally communicate in five basic “love languages.” The premise is that each of us has a certain way to give and receive love (our love language), and that we should each work hard to “speak” in the love language that is understood/spoken by the other person rather than only “speaking” in our own.

Learn the 5 Love Languages

This concept has been revolutionary in not only marriage relationships, but also family relationships and even co-worker relationships. Click here to take the FREE Five Love Languages Test.

Once you know what your primary love language is, you can continue learning about it by either purchasing the best-selling book (highly recommended) The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts or browsing their site.

KEY #4: Know Your Strengths (not free)

People are finally realizing how important it is for us to know our strengths (a.k.a. “themes” or “inborn talents”) and work within them versus focusing on our weaknesses in order to be more well-rounded. There are  basically 34 strength categories (“themes”), and this test will give you your Top 5 Themes.

This test is known as the Clifton StrengthsFinder® which requires a code. The research was done by the Gallup organization over a number of years and is some of the most SOLID data you will find. It’s very accurate and insightful. You can either purchase one of their books which includes the code, or purchase the code separately for $15.00.

It’s worth it to know your strengths! I suggest purchasing either Strengths Finder 2.0 or Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Strengths and Inspire Your Community (highly recommended for people of faith), and then use the code inside the book to take the test.

Once you know what your Top 5 Themes (your strengths), you can begin researching what they mean and how they impact your behavior and performance. Here are a couple resources for additional information about your strengths:

Here’s a short video series that goes through each of the 34 themes:

PHOTO CREDITS:
African American Family by @leighann-renee on @unsplash
Reading in France @mvp on @unsplash

Friends Talking @helena-lopes on @unsplash
Cotton Candy photo by @valerie-elash on @unsplash

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”