on standing up to the fist: A Rock Home Companion


Mozambique Pictures in the Hall

I covered our empty purple hallway with Seth’s photographs from Mozambique. It was my Christmas gift to Seth, and it made him cry. Like somebody who hadn’t cried in a long time, it made him cry. These pictures are of the people who have changed our lives. They’ve blessed us. They’ve changed our perspective,

but none of that makes it not hard. Africa. There’s a thing about it, and I’ve never been, but I am going to get my baby there, and so I grapple as best I can without ever stepping foot to a place that has somehow given us roots. Funny, too.

Roots is the name of a mini-series they played when I was little. I remember missing a show and getting upset. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what was true it was so harsh. 

I’m from Alabama, North, in the hills. There had been a sign on our mountain warning other races to not let the sun go down on them there, or else.

I saw a black man for the first time around the age of three or four. I remember it vividly because it stopped me in my tracks. I stared so deeply that I fell into a daze. My family moved about without my realizing it, but to me, the world stopped spinning. I remember it like I was holding my breath. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking, but I know that he was different, told he was different, and I couldn’t contain it until much later – what was the truth.

One of my brother’s best friends was half Panamanian. His mother picked him up on the side of the road on our bus route. A girl yelled out the window, “Go back where you came from!” and she called her a wicked name. I stood up behind her, yelled “Hey!,” the only time a fist has ever been at my face. She was a big girl. I sat down. I never said another word.

When I first stayed here in this Rock House, when it was Grandma and Grandpa’s, I slept in the attic bedroom with a glass case full of WW2 ammunition, a knife, a gun, badges, and other oddities of war Grandpa took off a Nazi he had captured. Right next to all that was a human skull. I tried to sleep, but the dark room never hid it, just the findings of Grandpa as an Oklahoma boy, just the head of a Native American. (I know. This is really freaky.)

The desires of my heart are right. The Holy Spirit speaks to me every day about a little girl. We have named her and made her a room. I buy her books and clothes. I know the truth, but there are times that I wonder what I’m doing, times I try to change my mind. What all are we addressing here? I cannot contain it. I cannot save the world, not even a little bit.

I keep coming back to it in tears. I can’t get out of it. I love her already, my daughter born abroad, so I know I must face issues head on that I’ve had the ignorance to ignore. 

To help me stand up as best I can to the fist that scared me back into my seat at the back of the bus, Seth bought for me a few books. There is No Me Without You and  The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (or Children of the Revolution) by Dinaw Mengestu. You can hear a reading from this book here. It has been so good to read not only because I don’t get to read very much as a mother, but also because I need the voices and eyes of those who have lived differently than I. I need it. I’m in love with the characters in Mengestu’s book.

I’m writing this vulnerably today to ask you to join me if you need to, if in trying to be honest about racism, you get a little wop-sided or scared or hoe-hum. I don’t know any other way to deal with it than to just be honest about it. Please bear with me, and pray for grace. 

Revolutions #7-10: Be honest. Peal back to the root. Be grateful. Change.

—–

Please also pray for our wisdom with finances, so we can officially begin the journey of adoption.

amberhaines
About me

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27 Comments

Heidi
Reply January 4, 2010

Beautiful, Amber. Thank you for sharing. Praying with you for your daughter.

~love
Reply January 4, 2010

oh, but you WILL save the world. you will save it for that little girl. and for you. SHE will save it for you.

racism boggles my mind, but it is so prevalent still. so sad. as i re-entered the US from Uganda on our first trip, i had an experience with an obviously racist customs officer. it broke my heart. and not for me, whatever...i can take it. but, it just re-affirmed that the precious boy that i would have with me the next trip would experience that. his.whole.life.

of course, we had worked through this in our heads already, but it is different in your heart...when you experience it for your child.

nonetheless, i wouldn't change a thing. just praying that Clayton is a self confident, happy boy that knows how loved and valued he is. especially in His eyes. {the same prayer for my other 4 kids!}

thanks for addressing this. it is real and needed. I love There Is No Me Without You & am putting the other on my list.

and the ridiculously long comment ends with, i will pray about your request!

Beth
Reply January 4, 2010

Amber, this is a heart-touching post to me. I'm a Spanish teacher, and I've had the priviledge to work with students from all sorts of Spanish-speaking countries, some living here and being in ESL courses, others living in Spain, where I've spent several summers teaching.... and racism exists everywhere. It's horrifying and fascinating all at the same time to realize that most people are racist. Spaniards think Mexicans are inferior. Mexicans think Dominicans are inferior.... and my white students think it's stupid that they have to learn the language of the "dirty laborers." It's a tragedy really. So, even if we get a fist in the face, even if my students don't like me, even if I am called a racist (and I have been called racist against white people, which is odd, since I'm white), well, we keep trying to get God's courage to stand up on that bus.

I'll be praying for you, your heart about this, your daughter, and that you and I will stand together.

Jennifer
Reply January 4, 2010

We will join you in prayer for this sweet little girl. One day we will watch our girls play together :) Miss you my friend. Sometimes my heart aches to be near you. Love you.

Tamara
Reply January 4, 2010

Our Mennonite/Icelandic family is close friends with a family who originated in Zimbabwe... our children have been very good friends almost from birth. We have a school photo of one of the children on our fridge... people always ask if he is our sponsor child. That gets very annoying. Racism is a twisted, weedy thing.

Fiona
Reply January 4, 2010

Yes Amber I will pray.
Yes God gives us the desires of our heart according to his will - what a story your little girl will have.
I was born in an Asian country. I grew up playing in the streets, speaking the native language and seeing no differences. Now I am in a very predominantly one tone part of USA. I miss the diversity.

nic
Reply January 4, 2010

I love your gift. I want to sit in that hall and have a really good conversation about all this with you two. Let's do that soon.

Also - I read Beautiful Things a couple years ago, and I loved it, but the only thing I remember about it is how sad it made me.

Kelly
Reply January 4, 2010

I can't fathom this. I've never understood racism; I see people for who they are. I am fascinated by their beauty, regardless of their skin color - their eyes still hold their souls. Amber, you see so much heart - you HAVE so much heart. Thank you for sharing this part of you, for laying it bare, for giving it to God who knows you, who loves you, who gives you love, who is Love Himself.

I cannot wait to see the gift He is bringing to you.

deb
Reply January 4, 2010

You are a deep breath of old souls and new.
Have you read The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver?
And I will pray.

Audra
Reply January 4, 2010

I was raised in the deep south where racism was apart of who people were (are). Thankfully my family was saved out of the mire of it when my dad became a Christian as a young man and later married my mom who had never been around anything like that. When I would visit my grandparents as an adult the rawness of that mentality would take my breath away. It's very real even today and very heartbreaking. God is the only way out of it to the truth. I am praying for your family as you work through all the aspects, known and unknown, to bring your daughter home.

Cindy
Reply January 4, 2010

Amber, words aren't coming easy here, but I want to cry at anyone's hatred and anyone's hurtful words foisted onto the world because someone is half Panamian. Thanks for writing, for delving...

Cindy,
Your Half-Mexican Friend with a Black Son

Susie
Reply January 4, 2010

Three weeks and I will be standing on African soil for the first time, holding my African-born son. It weighs heavy on me too. Not how to have a black son, but how to be a God-glorifying Indian-African-American family, when experience has only taught me white. God bless your journey.

Missy K
Reply January 4, 2010

I have few words, just a thank you. Every time racism is brought into the light, the speaker is standing up on the bus. Every time it is labeled the sin and stain that it is, the one who calls it out is standing up.

Becky Walker
Reply January 4, 2010

Praying with you as you wait to meet your daughter! God's timing is perfect!

Lora Lynn
Reply January 4, 2010

Praying, thinking, and wrestling with you, my friend. Will keep pondering... Can't wait to see your face and have a discussion with our voices.

deidra
Reply January 4, 2010

Maybe later I'll come back and say more. For now let me say thank you.

I am a black woman in America and racism remains real. (I started to link this next part with the word but...decided not to because I don't want that little conjunction to negate the fact that racism remains real. It's ugly on both ends...the giver's and the receiver's.) And here's what I say next: grace is real, too. (Grace is beautiful always.)

Jessica
Reply January 4, 2010

Can I contribute to the "I want that baby to be home with her Mama" fund? Seriously.

Minnesotamom
Reply January 4, 2010

I think we're all prone to stereotyping in some way. Our minds attempt to organize things, and based on each individual's perceptions, people get "organized," too. I'm not saying it's the right way to do things; it's just how we're wired.

Growing up in northern MN, I rarely saw someone who wasn't either Caucasian or Hispanic. We are blessed now, in the Twin Cities, to live in a very multi-cultural neighborhood. I am glad Anja and sibling-to-come will grow up here, learning and growing alongside children who might look a little different or speak a different language, but who have the same Creator as they do.

Adventures In Babywearing
Reply January 4, 2010

Love you.

My family is from the south, and some are "good ol boys" that aren't really good if you know what I mean. I've had an open heart for as long as I have memories- it sees no color or gender or handicap. I am thankful that even though I was brought up at times around those ugly words, they never even made an imprint on my mind.

One of my earliest memories is in preschool- there was a round black lady that was a helper. One day a boy pulled the tail off my BELOVED Snoopy stuffed animal, I was distraught, and she sat me up in the laundry room, on top of the dryer, and she stitched it back up right there. I'll never forget that moment.

Steph

stacy
Reply January 4, 2010

Amber,
What part of Arkansas do you live?

Emily
Reply January 4, 2010

Racism is still alive in too many people's hearts, sometimes even in the hearts of people who try really hard not to let it take root there. I teach social justice to 11th graders, and this is hands-down the most difficult subject we tackle.

But every time someone stands up in the back of the bus or has the courage to start a conversation like this, a little more light breaks through. And the light will eventually overwhelm the darkness, by the grace of the One who loves us all.

Praying for that little girl and for you as you wait for her.

Corinne
Reply January 4, 2010

Amber, your honesty is refreshing. Praying for you and your journey.

Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience
Reply January 4, 2010

Your Christmas present to Seth welled a heart here too.
And Deidra's words.

I love you, Amber, and I pray for that sweet girl making a home in your heart.

All's grace,
Ann

Sue Omullan
Reply January 5, 2010

I never thought of people as different being younger...I never understood "racism" b/c I never experienced it. I experience it on a different level (not color of one's skin) but b/c of prejudice due to my son having severe autism and mental retardation. For those who have experienced racism, my heart bleeds for these people. I experience prejudice daily and it is painful. A tiny example is that one of my sons actually helped with a huge fundraiser for our local food /shelter for ind'ls who do not have homes or are struggling to find food. My family worked many months on this fundraiser. My son who has a disability went to visit the local shelter with his aide to volunteer on a weekly basis and bring free baked goods as well. Funny, the shelter didn't want his help. One look at him and they said they didn't need anymore help - they were booked. I called the next day to see if they would like the help of my son without a disability (not mentioning that his twin was just in the day prior)... would you believe that they would LOVE to have had his help? The feelings inside my body were and still are such that a hot knife is cutting and burning my insides every time I think of this. How does one cope with racism having the "feeling" inside? How does one get through and move on from the pain? Yes, I pray... I pray alot. The pain is still there - very ripe. This is 2010 and sadly these things still happen in our world today... why?

Megan@SortaCrunchy
Reply January 5, 2010

Growing up in Oklahoma, I've seen racism in all of its forms - subtle to outrageous. It infuriates me and at times makes me feel weak and helpless. As I've gotten older, I've grown more confident and insistent in standing up to the fist.

I am praying for you and the daughter who will come home to you.

Mike Rusch
Reply January 5, 2010

Tell Seth that I'm paying attention & things are starting to line up in my understanding.

This journey is long, but it does end. There is rest at the end & living water to drink at every pause

terry
Reply October 5, 2011

Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

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