Author: Dustin Koctar

I was born in Texas. Now I live in Tennessee. I'm OK with that.

On Taking a Knee

After more than a hundred NFL players chose to either take a knee or stay in the locker room during the Star Spangled Banner two weeks ago, people didn’t hesitate to share their feelings. Courtney and I were taking about how one of the purposes of taking a knee was to generate a conversation about race, police brutality, white supremacy, etc., but the original point is often missed because of the national anthem and American patriotism.

Instead of having those conversations, we either yell at people on Facebook or we cocoon ourselves with people who agree with and think like us. As an alternative, we asked a few friends and family members to help us with that conversation. We may not agree, but the main rules were no name-calling and keep it clean.

First up is my friend Whit. He is a devoted Tennessee Titans and Eric Church fan. He and I have had a lot of great conversations about this, and I’m grateful for his thoughts.

___________

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attending Tennessee Titans games. When the team moved to Nashville from Houston in 1998, the head coach was Jeff Fisher, who has long been considered somewhat “old school” – he played for Mike Ditka on the famous ’85 Bears team – and he requested (read: probably insisted) that players stand in line on the sideline with their helmet under their left arm and with their right hand over their heart while the National Anthem was played. My uncle and I always made it into the stadium in time for the anthem and the flyover and it was always a very special moment. It was a moment of unity between opponents, and a time to reflect on the fact that we live in a great country and that flag cloaks us in a sense of liberty and justice.

 I’m grown up now (most of the time), and instances of individual athletes choosing to sit or kneel for the National Anthem, as well as thought-provoking and productive conversations with Dustin have opened my eyes to a few things. Most notably, the fact that not all individuals feel that sense of liberty and justice when they think of the American flag or hear the National Anthem. And until the flag does that for them, I can see why protests should continue, especially after the ridiculous remarks of the president last Friday in Huntsville.

 This past Sunday, as I scrolled through twitter wondering what the Titans and Seahawks had planned in terms of National Anthem action or lack thereof, I was reminded of an old Jackie Robinson quote that I had read years ago that I found to have aged well, in my opinion, and is sadly still largely accurate, at least as far as I can tell:

 “There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

 And I’ll be honest – this hurts my feelings. I recognize how selfish that sounds. As far as I know, I’ve never experienced prejudice based on the color of my skin, or my gender, or my religion, or anything else. I love America and I think I love what the American flag stands for, to me, and it hurts my feelings that somebody would want to sit or kneel during the Anthem that I’ve come to love hearing over the years. But I can no longer ignore the fact that the things the flag and Anthem mean to me may not hold the same meaning to everyone else. Again, this is especially applicable in light of what the worst president in American history said in Huntsville on Friday.

 But you know what else bothers me, perhaps even more? Information like this that came from the tremendous and unapologetically opinionated Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky via Twitter: “Friend in loop tells me at least 6 different Nissan Stadium suite holders will walk or stay away if Titans players kneel for anthem”. My first reaction: “let em walk”. The more I think about this, the more I think that this would be addition by subtraction for the Titans/Nashville community. Let’s fill those suites with individuals willing to listen to the opinions of the players for whom they’re cheering. I don’t like the idea of bigots representing my city that I hold so dear or my fanbase.

 I am reminded of the complexity of this issue when I read the comments of individuals like Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy who said on Sunday, “no man – president or otherwise – will dictate my actions. I stand for the National Anthem because of troops overseas who risk life and limbs. The president’s words will not change my tribute”. I would like to think that this is close to being in line with my school of thought as well.

 All of this to say – I’ve come to accept that because of individuals’ circumstances, beliefs, experience and platform, I understand and appreciate why an athlete would be compelled to kneel or sit for the Star Spangled Banner. My wish is that the same individuals who do so use that same platform and their access to media to express what it is that they are protesting. I understand that many, most, or all of these individuals are protesting police brutality and racism. I say we make that abundantly clear and eliminate ambiguity, because ambiguity of protest message will continue to be a barrier for individuals who presume that these protests are anti-veteran or anti-America. I feel confident that most are not, but I think that clarity of message will help the people who cheered during Trump’s remarks understand why the kneeling is necessary, or hopefully at least start a conversation. And if we are having conversations such as these in the name of unity and understanding, I think we must all be on the same page regarding these issues. Police brutality and racism and indisputably and unequivocally wrong, and I think that the more people who recognize that Anthem protests are protesting THAT, and not the flag or the anthem itself, the more progress we will be able to make together.

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Open Letter to Refugees

Dear refugees,

I’m sorry this is happening to you. Some of you left your homes years ago and traveled thousands of miles to seek refuge. You sold everything and risked even more for an idea there would be a safe haven for you in America, the land of the free. Many of you said good-bye to or buried your loved ones along the way, and I realize my sympathy will never be able to take that pain away.
Some of you have managed to navigate the maze of bureaucratic red tape and the most rigorous vetting process in the world to be approved for entry to the US. I can’t imagine the emptiness you may feel to have your hopes dashed by the stroke of our President’s pen, and now you must find a way to survive even longer in conditions I will never comprehend.
It breaks my heart to learn the leaders of our government have decided you are not welcome here because of the country in which you were born and the deity to whom you pray. I’m sorry that your humanity has been denied, and you are now branded a threat to our national security.
When you hear the news that your chance to come to America has been delayed, please know that we are better than this. We hear you, we know your stories, and we will welcome you here. If your patience, courage, and determination are wearing thin, please hang on. Don’t give up.
Love,
Dustin

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/trump-syrian-refugees.html?emc=edit_na_20170127&nl=breaking-news&nlid=9583097&ref=cta&_r=0&referer=

When Your Friends Are Hurting: On Men And Grief

If there is anything that makes us more uncomfortable than grief itself, I think it might be grief and men. This experience has made me super aware of how much men grieve too, and how much there isn’t always a place for them to do that. It has made me want to scream, “don’t forget about the guys!” a time or two. I am so excited that Dustin decided to join in the conversation and share his side of the story and his experience with grief and loss. So we’re closing out our “When Your Friends Are Hurting” series today with this one. If you missed any of the others, check them out here. [adoption loss, miscarriages, divorce, and losing your mom to cancer] I am so grateful to the friends who were willing to be a part of this. Thank you for letting us hold on to and share your stories. Let’s keep these kinds of conversations going. They’re so good and so important. Deal?

On Monday, March 24, I woke up expecting to Skype with both Courtney and our son for the first time ever.  Courtney went to Uganda a few weeks early, so I was still at home in Nashville.  For several days, Courtney was only able to go visit JT at the orphanage for a few hours a day, but on that Monday, JT was going to be able to leave the oprphange and go stay with Courtney.  Each day leading up to that Monday, Courtney would send me pictures or videos, and I was so excited about getting to talk to him on Skype for the first time.

When I woke up on Monday, I checked my phone and pulled up several emails and messages from Courtney, and I immediately knew something was wrong.  After several attempts, we were finally able to Skype, but JT was not there.  As I sat and ate my cereal, I listened to Courtney explain the situation – something happened, and we would not be able to adopt JT. Seeing Courtney cry through the bad Skype connection was gut-wrenching.  Knowing that Courtney was 7,800 miles away and had to handle all of this alone destroyed me.

Once the conversation was over, I finished getting ready for the day and went to work.  I have learned, in recent years, the art of compartmentalizing my emotions.  My daily life and all of the good things exist in one compartment, while pain, anger, regret, fear, sadness, negativity, hurt, and loss each have their own compartments.  Life goes on, and everything runs smoothly as long as everything stays in its rightful spot.  As I drove to work, I struggled to find a compartment to put this news about JT, because walking into work with tears running down my cheeks would be embarrassing.  For the first few hours, I managed to hold myself together.  Then Courtney and I Skyped again during my lunch break, and I started to realize that it was going to be impossible to bottle up all of my emotions.

I managed to hold myself together until I returned home.  JT’s room had everything in its rightful place – the toys, books, bright colored sheets, and clothes.  Everything was ready to welcome this little guy into our home and our lives.  After eating half a bag of Santita’s corn chips, a gallon of salsa, and a few slices of pizza (with the help of an adult beverage or two), I went into JT’s room.  I sat down in the rocking chair by his bed, pulled out my phone, and watched the video of JT saying “Hi, Daddy!” and “I love you, Daddy!”  Cue the waterworks.  I was flooded with sadness, and I busted out in one of those ugly-cries girls always tweet about when they are watching “Parenthood.”

On several occasions throughout the following weeks, those fits would hit me at work, so I had to escape to a stall in the bathroom or go sit in my car until my eyes were no longer red and watery.  At least once a day, I still think of JT and wonder what he is doing, and I can feel the tears starting to well up.  Father’s Day at church was especially (and surprisingly) difficult to bear.  The preacher asked all of the fathers to stand, and as he prayed for them, I had to look up at the ceiling to keep the tears from falling down my face and puddling on the floor.

Courtney and I faced the same troubling experience in two very different ways.  She was there.  She met him, talked to him, hugged him, kissed him, and ultimately had to say “Good-bye” to him.  I only saw pictures and a couple of videos, but this feeling of emptiness will always be with me. It was heartbreaking having to pick her up from the airport a few days after we learned we could not adopt JT.  The next time I picked her up from the airport, she was supposed to have our son with her.  It was supposed to be a joyous occasion.  When I thought about my future, JT was a part of it. I pictured us going to Vanderbilt basketball and football games together, and I was inches away from purchasing season tickets.  I thought about playing catch with him and teaching him how to play basketball like my dad taught me.  I thought about going to the lake with him and seeing him jump into the water for the first time.  I envisioned taking him to Texas to introduce him to my family and friends (and Tex-Mex and real bar-b-q).

The people that helped me the most through the last 4 months have been the ones who felt the pain with me in that moment or found various ways to take care of us.  They didn’t try to sugar-coat the situation or find the silver lining.  They didn’t try to convince me to move forward. No one knew the “right words” to say because the whole deal was flat out awful.  The best encouragement came from the people who responded with a sincere “That sucks,” (some even added four-letter words to that sentence on my behalf), or “We are praying for you and JT,” or “What do you want us to bring you for dinner?”

As a man who hates showing emotions, these past few months have been a struggle for me, but I’m getting better.  It’s OK to have feelings. It’s OK to be a guy and to be vulnerable enough to show emotions.  Ultimately, I have learned that I can’t keep everything safely tucked away in a compartment. To the guys in the “grief trenches,” know that it is reasonable and normal to have emotions. Keeping everything bottled up or trying to play the tough guy when everything hits the fan is not a good idea.  We need to open up and “process” things (that’s counselor-speak Courtney likes to use from time to time).  In college, Courtney nearly broke up with me because I never showed my emotions, so having an open dialogue with Courtney about JT and the rest of our adoption process has been amazing and freeing.  Going through this with her and feeling safe about sharing what’s on my heart has brought a sense of peace to what we have been through, and it gives me encouragement as we continue through the rest of our adoption process.

The Final Countdown

Courtney and I are in the process of adopting a child from Uganda.  What?!?!  Yeah, I know.  Here’s a little bit more of our story if you’re just joining in on the fun.

First of all, to all of you who have already donated to our adoption fund through our Adoption Puzzle Fundraiser – thank you so much.  Words cannot express how grateful we are for your support.  If you have no idea what an Adoption Puzzle Fundraiser is, click here to learn more about this.

Secondly, we have completed our four home study visits with our adoption social worker.  Now she and her team are working on writing up our home study report that we will send off to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to obtain approval for us to adopt internationally.  This home study report will also be sent to the Ugandan government once we get the OK from the US government.

We first posted about this fundraiser on July 2 with the goal of selling 550 puzzle pieces at $20 each to raise $11,000.  Based on stories that we heard from other families raising support for adoptions, we expected this fundraising effort to take several months.  The thought of that sounded terrible to me, since asking for money is awkward, and I don’t want this blog to be full of requests for donations.

In less than one month, families, friends, and strangers from all over the world have shown their support for us, and 513 puzzle pieces have been purchased!!!

For all of those that have purchased a puzzle piece (or 20), Courtney has already started writing your names on each piece.  The pile of pieces is pretty cool.

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It has only been about 5 weeks, and we are already 93.3% of the way to reaching our goal.  When we started this fundraiser, it only took one week for 130 puzzle pieces to be purchased, so I know it’s possible that this could happen just as quickly.  Then we will stop posting about puzzles and money, and start posting about funny stuff about life and our marriage…

Our anniversary is next Thursday (August 8), so prepare yourself as we recap the highs and lows of our 4th year of marriage.

If you are reading this, you are in one of two positions:

1) You have not yet donated to our adoption fund, and you really want to support us.  Here’s a link to our PayPal account, where you can purchase as many puzzle pieces you want for $20 each.  Then your name will be written on a puzzle that will hang in our child’s room.  It’s a great and simple way to share in our story.

2) You have already donated, but you want to share our story with all of your friends so that they can donate, too.  You can do that by clicking the Twitter and Facebook links at the bottom of this post.  It’s pretty neat getting emails from people saying, “Hey, I saw your blog on [so-and-so]’s Facebook page, and I wanted to help support you!”

Recap: only 37 puzzle pieces remain – we are so close!  Here’s how you can donate online via PayPal, or shoot me an email – koctar@gmail.com – and I can provide you with our address so you can mail a check.

All in all, you are all awesome!  We are so excited to share stories to our child about all of our friends and family that have donated to support this adoption.

Thank you!

The First 100 Puzzle Pieces

For those of you just joining us, you are in for a real treat!  Here’s a quick recap:

1) Courtney and I have started the process to adopt a child from Uganda.

2) We have invited friends, family, and total strangers to join with us on this adventure through our Puzzle Piece Fundraiser.

3) Donations have been flying in from all over the country, and the first 100 puzzle pieces are gone!

As we progress through this adoption process, there are several checkpoints that we will come to, and the only way to keep moving is by writing a check ($$$), so we are truly grateful and humbled by the support that we have received from friends, family, and people we have never met.

When Courtney and I decided to start this process, we knew it would be costly.  Once we applied with our agency, we learned exactly how costly it would be.  At first, I thought, “We could save up the money ourselves,” because the idea of asking for money makes me anxious.  Then after meeting with a few families who had adopted children internationally and hearing stories of families who had been down this road before, I soon learned that fundraising would be in the cards for us.  We learned that people want to help.  People want to share in this joy.

So we blogged about it…and people responded.  People donated.  I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of receiving that first email from PayPal showing that we received our first donation.  One of my college friends purchased two puzzle pieces for $40.  This was getting real.  Then people started sharing our blog on Facebook and Twitter, and people sent messages saying, “Saw your blog post on ___________’s good luck and God Bless.”  How awesome is that!

I told Courtney that I would send an update once we sold 100 puzzle pieces, thinking that would be sometime in the future…

As of today, we have sold 136 puzzle pieces!!! Thank you so much to all of you who have helped us so far.  This is so exciting!

There are still 414 puzzle pieces remaining.  If you would like your name on a puzzle piece, here is a link to donate to our adoption fund on PayPal.  You can get one puzzle piece for $20, or you can donate to get as many as you want.  If you have any questions or would like to send us a check, you can email courtney.koctar@gmail.com, and we will send you our info.

Buckle Up

We couldn’t decide who was going to get to write this post. So in true marital harmony we arm wrestled duked it out and decided we both would. Enjoy this rare occasion. Sorry it’s kind of long.

Sunday’s church service was a double-whammy of relevance for us. We sang the song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United, and the preacher reviewed the story of Abraham as he left everything to follow God’s call. I know what you’re thinking: “Are they leaving everything to go live in the ocean?” No.

The song goes a little something like this:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Over the past few months, you have patiently read through numerous posts about God’s purpose for our lives, what we are supposed to do post-Africa-trip, and what it means to live like Jesus in the 21st Century. We’re still figuring it out. Bit by bit we are finding ways to live out acts of faith in love. It’s a fun/uncomfortable/mysterious process; I highly recommend it. We’ve wrestled with the tension of living out God’s call to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and we’ve looked for ways to live with a global mindset and serve locally.

This song and the story of Abraham (which I wrote about here) speak to our willingness to be faithful and follow the call of God into unknown places. From the time God made his covenant to Abraham about being the father of many nations until the time when things actually started to happen, 24 years passed. God’s timing is confusing.

As Courtney alluded to in her tattoo post, we are saying “Yes” to God. Two weeks ago, we officially started the process to adopt a child from Uganda. At this point, we have more questions than answers, but we feel like this is what God is calling us to do. There are already stacks of papers to fill out and submit, background checks and physical exams to schedule, and many checks to be written (yes, adoption costs money…lots of it).

The next 1.5-2 years or so are going to fun, stressful, exciting, and annoying for our family. But when God calls you to do something, there is peace in saying, “Yes.”

Here’s Courtney’s thoughts on the whole thing (this should be fun)…

So, we’re starting the adoption process. WHAT!? Apparently you people care way more than I do about our lives. After my tattoo post we had multiple friends be like, “Sooo, we’re placing bets on what y’all said yes to… Adoption? Moving? ????!” So for those of you who bet adoption. You, my friends are correct. I hope you bet money.

So basically at any given moment I am feeling, thinking, or saying at least 3 of the following things:
We’re really doing this!!!
AHHHH. (Excited)
I’m so excited!
I want to throw up.
WHAT ARE WE DOING!?
I’m so scared.
AHHHH. (Terrified)

Dustin said everything much more rationally and eloquently than I ever could. So I want to take a moment to address some questions that have been posed to us:

1. Do you have a kid picked out?
No. We’re open to a boy or girl, any age, and possibly a sibling set. All we know right now is Uganda.

2. Could you guys not have kids?
Great question. We don’t know. We’ve never “tried” to have kids.

3. Do you want kids of your own?
Still up for debate. Between Dustin and I. Not you.

4. Why adoption?
I’ve known since I was little that I would have black kids. It’s weird, I know. We really feel like we’re supposed to. It’s a God thing. I can’t really explain it.

5. Why Uganda?
We felt pushed towards Uganda. I just feel like we have kid there. It’s hard to explain.

6. Where are y’all in the process?
We’ve been accepted by an agency in NC. Now we start the home study process (which basically deems us as not crazy people who can successfully raise kids). The home study will take 2-3 months during which time we will be collecting documents for our dossier (every legal thing about your life you can imagine). Then we will be put on a waiting list and wait for a referral (a kid).

7. How much does it cost?
This is me writing a number on a napkin and sliding it across the table to you… $25,000.

8. Do you have that much money?
Ha. NO. If we had $25,000 I would have told God to hold the phone as we went and traveled to Italy. Then we would have come back and adopted a kid.

9. How are you going to pay for it?
We are obviously saving everything we can and we will be fundraising (YAYYY!!!… said no one ever.) and applying for grants.

We could definitely use your prayers. Satan is AWESOME at getting in my head and making me anxious, fearful, and doubtful. Throw on up a prayer for us. We could use them.

We’ll be using this blog to keep people updated on the process. Don’t worry, this will not be the ONLY thing we blog about anymore.

Here goes nothing, y’all.

C & D

Wide Awake

For the past month, our church’s preacher has led us through a series entitled “Wide Awake,” where we have been challenged by the following question:

“How many moments of my life can I fill with the conscious awareness of God’s presence?”

To make the conversation more official, we were asked to share these moments on social media by including “#wideawake” in our posts.  Feel free to search Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for a few minutes; I’ll still be here when you return.

Most of the posts are of people complaining about not being able to sleep, so they are literally “wide awake.”  Those posts are not related to this subject.  The ones I’m talking about are the ones where people noticed God’s presence in their daily activities, or they could sense God’s comfort during a tough time.  Some posts were very touching, while others were on the same level as “Got stuck in traffic today, but it gave me time to listen to sports talk radio for an extra 30 minutes. God is great.  #wideawake.”

Last week I had a wide awake moment.  Unfortunately, I could not take a picture of it and add a sweet filter on Instagram, nor could I summarize it in 140 characters.

I was sitting in Bongo Java in East Nashville enjoying a nice cup of locally roasted coffee and reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when I looked up to notice a homeless man approaching the door (After further review, I am confident that this man was indeed homeless as opposed to simply being a hipster or a local musician.  In Nashville, they all look very similar).

He stopped short of the door and looked down at the ashtray.  He took a moment to rearrange all of the plastic bags he was carrying so that he could free his right hand.  With this hand he bent down and rummaged through the ashtray to find a few cigarette butts with enough unused tobacco to get the job done.  In the same way you would dig through the sand at the beach to find a few good seashells, this man picked out 5 or 6 cigarette butts, put them in his pocket, and continued on his way down the sidewalk.

At this moment, I felt like I should do something.  I feel like any decent human being would feel compassion for this man and have the desire to help him in some way.  It was cold outside; should I get him some coffee? Should I just get black coffee or should I get him a latte? Maybe he’s hungry – I could get him a muffin or bagel sandwich.  Well, what if he is gluten intolerant.  That would be awkward.  I could walk with him down the street to the grocery and buy him a full pack of cigarettes.  Wow, doesn’t that go against everything I’ve been taught about helping homeless people.  Yeah, that would be a waste.

In about 3.6 seconds, I debated several other alternatives, but decided to do nothing but return to my book to find out if Jim and Huck were going to get caught as they floated down the Mississippi River.

Looking back, I wish I would have offered to walk with him to the grocery to buy him a pack of cigarettes.  In the 3-block walk, I feel like we could have had a pleasant conversation.  Or we could have talked about absolutely nothing.  Either way, at least I would have done something.

I had a #wideawake moment, and I wasted it.  I did nothing.  It’s that awkward moment (#thatawkwardmoment – yes, that’s another popular thing with the kids these days) when I felt the presence of God, but I did absolutely nothing.  It wasn’t my brightest moment.

How have you recognized the presence of God recently?  What did you do in that moment?

Acts and the Letters to the Romans

I hope you sung the title of this blog post. If not, I’m going to need you to go back and sing it.

We’re reading through the book of Acts with our small group right now and it’s officially kicking my butt. I’ve got the word bold on my mind this morning and I can’t shake it. It’s defined as, “fearless before danger, a daring spirit, or standing out prominently.” It’s a word that is used in Acts and describes so perfectly the first church and the twelve disciples. It’s a word when used in terms of faith conveys so much conviction and courage.

I have a hard time with the Bible sometimes. I live in a place where I have never been persecuted for my beliefs. No one I know has ever been killed because they believe in Jesus. I do not have to risk my life daily or ever to spread the news of the gospel. I have never been told to deny Christ or ______ will happen. I’ve never been told to deny Christ at all. I have never been questioned for believing in Jesus. I do not have to be bold or courageous ever in this way for my faith.

Now, I know that being bold in our faith does not have to equal being physically persecuted. However, when I think of living for Jesus with a “daring spirit” or “standing out prominently” all for the sake of the story of the gospel; I tend to go down the persecution road. I now you don’t have to be a martyr in order to live recklessly for Jesus. I know that living “fearless before danger” doesn’t only mean that I sell everything I own, move to the most dangerous third world country, and literally risk it all for the name of Jesus.

But then what does it look like?

What does being bold in our faith look like in America?

What does it look like when unfortunately money is important, we have to pay our bills, I have to have a car to get to and from work, we have to have jobs, and we have to look presentable at said jobs?

What does it look like when we live in a country that makes it so easy to feel content and entitled?

What does it look like when we are so far removed from risking anything let alone our lives for our faith?

What does it look like to love Jesus radically, boldly, courageously, and with conviction?

That was the question of 2012 for Dustin and me. Here we are posing it again at the beginning of 2013… Cleary we still haven’t figured it out. What do you think?

It Don’t Matter if You’re Black or White

I just finished reading How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston. It was part memoir and part comical self- help book. Now, not to state the obvious but I’m white. You might find yourself wondering how a white girl ended up with a book about being black. I found out about it through an article in the paper where it was another white girl’s answer to “What books are on your bedside table?” I went to the store immediately.

It was quite a funny read. I laughed a lot as he told stories about growing up and set some stereotypes straight.

It was also a quite thought-provoking read. I found myself thinking a lot about people and the world. About race, discrimination, and segregation. About history, the ways the world has changed, and the ways it’s still the same.

It has me currently thinking about if racism and discrimination still exist and why.

I can remember growing up, seeing and hearing about racism and it bothering me. I remember asking questions and being unsettled by the answers. I have recently had comments made to me and around me that make my heart beat really fast, and I have to take a deep breath before I respond. I hear jokes throughout the halls of my middle school and it makes my heart feel heavy and sad.

I can remember growing up, seeing and hearing about discrimination and it bothering me. I have heard statements made about people’s race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation that don’t sit well with me. I have made my own ignorant comments about people based on their religion that I regret saying. I hear jokes throughout the hallways of my middle school that make my stomach hurt.

I find, on a middle school level as well as with adults, it’s harder to dislike someone you have a relationship with. It’s harder to talk trash, judge, or make gross jokes about a group of people when you have a friend in that group of people.

I don’t know how we change racism and discrimination. I have a hunch it has something to do with love, understanding, Jesus, and building relationships. I think it might involve getting out of our comfort zone and experiencing other people and traditions. We might have to get over ourselves and our beliefs for 5 minutes and listen to other people’s stories. If we did I think things might just be a little different. I don’t know though.

What do you think?

… Courtney

2012 in Review

We’ve decided to change things up on the blog a little bit. It’s a new year. Anything goes.

We joke a lot about how much we have hated this past year. If we’re being honest, those haven’t been jokes. If you thought we were joking you either don’t know us very well or we have poor joke delivery skills. We have literally hated this year. I have never been one for eating black eyed peas on New Year’s day but yesterday we ate a ton of them.

2012 was a hard year. It was a weird one. We felt called to do stuff that didn’t make sense. I cried a lot this year. We fought a lot. It was an uncomfortable year. A year of financial and job insecurity. It was a year of hard conversations. A year where we had to do stuff we didn’t want to. It was a year I probably would not ever want to live again.

2012 was also a year of adventure. A year of crazy stories. It was a year of great trips. A year where we experienced God in straight up awesome ways. It was a year full of community. It was a year where I felt so blessed by family. A year where I have never been more thankful for the friends that we have. It was a year that has changed us forever.

On that note, here is my year in review and things I have learned from my not so favorite year.

1. When you have to eat pasta every night, buy it in different shapes. You kind of feel like you’re eating something different. Kind of not, though.

2. It’s okay if you have to sell your TV and Xbox.

3. Going to New York City, Washington DC, London, and Uganda is a legit travel year.

4. When you’re living with your parents and you get the opportunity to house sit? Take it. Every time.

5. Only talk about finances in public. You can’t yell or ugly cry. Well, you can but that’s embarrassing. (Thanks for this one Buzards.)

6. If you go 3 weeks without washing your hair it will start to fall out.

7. The Beatles were right. You really can get by with a little help from your friends. I’m assuming you can also get high with a little help from your friends. I wouldn’t know about that one.

8. If you cry all the time your husband will not want to hang out with you.

9. When life doesn’t go the way you had hoped, you can either pout or get over it. I’ve tried both. I recommend the latter.

10. When God calls you towards an adventure, go. Or he’ll send someone else instead. That would stink.

Here’s to lessons learned in 2012 and a hopeful 2013!

…Courtney