The Beginning of Hospitality (Hint: It's Not Your Home)

In my classes at Fuller, we've talked a lot about the practice of hospitality. Traditionally, many believe hospitality begins in our home, but I'd like to challenge that idea. Does that I mean I can't be hospitable because I don't have my own home? I don't think so. 

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I've wrestled with this idea, especially as I watch people my age get married, have kids, purchase their own home, host potluck dinners and Super Bowl parties. Isn't hospitality about inviting people into the space you've created as a family? That may be one expression, but it's not the only way. 

Hospitality encompasses much more than the home - it begins in the heart. Is my heart open to others? Is it welcoming to the stranger? Am I open to feel compassion for those I may not yet know? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves, instead of how to set up our living room to impress or host the most guests. 

Don't get me wrong - I love seeing beautiful photos of gatherings inside my friend's homes, yet I want to expand the narrative just a bit so that hospitality becomes something all of us can practice, not just our married friends. 

Christine Pohl describes hospitality as the act of welcoming the stranger. It's about training our eyes to truly see people, especially those on the outside. 

One of the most painful experiences for minority members, according to Elizabeth Conde-Frazier in her book A Many Colored Kingdom, is the feeling of invisibility. Being invisible is more than simply not being seen, it means not being listened to or comprehended. And when we are blind to the people around us that feel invisible, we succumb to a blindness that does not allow us to open our hearts to the strangers in our lives. 

So, let me ask you. Is your heart open to really see? 

The first step to practicing hospitality is to open ourselves up to others, even the ones we may not see on a regular basis. As a majority member, I can love my unseen brothers and sisters by making them visible through the power of invitation. 

My challenge to you today is to identify and see the strangers in your life - they may live in your neighborhood or go to your church or school or visit the same fitness studio as you a couple nights a week. They may look like you or they might not. Think about who might be invisible to you. Look for who you would normally not invite in - to your life or your home - and make a conscious effort to reach out. It could be as simple as a conversation or an invitation to grab a cup of coffee together. Who knows - maybe it will actually progress toward your home.

Let's begin practicing hospitality from our hearts, opening them up to see and extend the invitation to both our friends and the strangers. 

5 Ways to Create Momentum in Your Personal Life This Year

It's January 2nd: the day all those New Years Resolutions get put to the test. I know because I just started Whole 30 this morning and went on a run for my upcoming half marathon. Ambitious I know, but a girl's gotta do what she sets her mind to do. Some of us are feeling motivated, though others may be dragging their feet into 2018 desperately looking for some forward momentum. 

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Not going to lie, I am a pretty motivated person. I'm a doer and am constantly self talking myself into the next risk or challenge. But there are definitely times I am less motivated. I'm currently coming out of one of those seasons. 

I'm also a big believer in the concept of grace. A downside to being driven by nature is an over-critical view of self (at least in my case). If I'm not careful, I start to let shame run the show instead of allowing myself the grace to be exactly where I am. 

So there has to be a middle ground. There is absolutely grace to be where you are RIGHT NOW, no matter how you got there or how long you've been there. But there is also grace to move forward. Though a lot of circumstances are out of our control, there are several things you can do NOW that are IN your control.

Below you'll find a few suggestions to help you create some momentum in your life. I hope these tools help you to feel less stuck, more motivated, and filled with grace to move forward to the next step. 

1. Do something physical. 

One of the best spiritual practices I learned in college was to move my body. As a freshman in college, I put on the infamous "freshmen 15" and by the time I was a junior in college, I wondered what had happened to my body. I transferred schools that year and decided to train for a half marathon. The experience of doing something physical with my body prompted transformation in so many areas in my life. Since then, I've tried to do something physical whenever I'm on the upswing of transition. I give myself space to be and then challenge myself physically so that my mind, spirit, emotions, ect have a chance to catch up. It gives me clarity mentally and helps me feel like I'm making steps forward. 

2. Practice gratitude daily. 

The concept of gratitude is nothing new, but I believe it helps us engage the present moment with fresh eyes. Whenever we pause to identify the specific things we are thankful for, our perspective widens and we step back for a moment to see the full picture. Yes, I may feel stuck and depressed in this moment, but I wasn't always here. Being thankful takes me eyes off myself and gives me the gift of hope to look forward. 

3. Try something new. 

Whether you go out to a new restaurant, visit a park you've always wanted to go to, or attend a new workout class, trying something new helps us get out of our normal routine. When I try something new, it helps me combat the feeling of being stuck, because I realize I have the power to change things for myself. I can bake a new recipe, try a new writing prompt, or take a new route on my morning run. Whatever you try, adding something new to your life can help create momentum and remind us we have the ability to change if we set our minds to it. 

4. Check in with yourself regularly. 

I find it helpful to set a couple mile markers throughout the year to reevaluate where I'm at and where I want to go. For me, this means I take two personal retreats a year. I try to practice healthy self-awareness so that I can take advantage of the time before me, instead of trying to escape and avoid my current reality. Even if you're not meeting your goals, setting aside time to check in with yourself is so helpful so you can get where you want to go. If you're interested in taking a personal retreat, you can visit one of my previous blog posts. I should also mention that checking in means having the courage to be brutally honest with yourself - not to stir up shame, but empower you to move through it. You can't move on from what you don't admit. 

5. Be conscious of what you're putting in your body. 

I don't know about you, but around the holidays I always let myself splurge a little bit extra. But I've realized the negative effects sugar and other foods can have on my body when I fail to monitor my intake. Try cutting something out or just making a few healthy choices a day to see if you can create some positive momentum for your body (and your mind). It's no secret that sugar, along with other foods, can impair our thinking and our body's processes. I'm a bit fan of eating what your body craves, but I also believe in listening to my body. Sometimes my body is craving water instead of more salted popcorn, I just have to pause and listen. 

None of these ideas are rocket science; in fact, most are very simple. However, I've experienced significant breakthrough by applying these practices to my daily life. Wherever you find yourself at the start of the new year, I pray you give yourself grace and also think through what steps you can make today to start moving forward. Let us be people who keep showing up this year, even when we feel stuck. 

Living Integrated: Questions for the New Year

2017 was a big year for me. I turned 26, completed my first certification at the Cultural Intelligence Center, went to Peru (twice) then returned for the summer, moved to LA, started a new job, became a student again, passed my first quarter at Fuller Seminary, and am an official California resident (as of last week). 

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I went into the new year thinking it was to be my year. And it was in some ways. But in other ways, it wasn't. There were plenty of beautiful moments and dark ones too. I think life is about string all those moments together, integrating all the pieces - both the internal and external. 

This theme of integration is on my mind exiting 2017 and entering 2018. My hope is that these questions help you reflect on all the pieces of the last year - the good, bad, internal, and external. I invite you to look at the full picture of 2017 instead of focusing on one loss, disappointment, or missed goal. That's the temptation, right? To bring whatever pain, failure or disappointment into the new year. But that wouldn't be the whole story, would it? Join me as I look back and then ahead, acknowledging each piece of myself with kindness and grace. 

LOOKING BACK

1. Best moments of 2017 - list your top three to five in no particular order.

2. Can you identify the parts of yourself you gave the most attention? Maybe it was your body, your emotions, your career, ect. 

3. What about the parts of yourself you gave the least attention?

4. What about 2017 was worth waiting for?

5. What do you need to grief about 2017? Perhaps there is a disappointment, loss, or painful event you experienced that you need to recognize. Grieving is powerful, and without this step, it's often impossible to move on. 

6. What do you need to celebrate about 2017? Think about something you accomplished, learned or fought for. Maybe it's one thing you did really well this year - something you really knocked out of the park or invested your all in. Be kind to yourself and pause for a moment to soak it in. You did that. And that's worth celebrating. 

7. How did you honor your body in 2017?

8`. How did you honor your soul?

9. What about your mind?

10. Your heart?

11. Who stood by you in 2017? In other words, who did you feel supported or loved by this year?

12. Have you thanked them? If not, send them a quick text, or better yet, write them a note. I bet it will do you both some good. 

Looking back, 2017 was made up of both loss and great joy. That's usually how it goes, right? Though there may be pain or disappointment, there is always light and life and hope for what's ahead. Now start looking ahead to the new year, anticipating all it could be and more. 

LOOKING AHEAD

1. What are you bringing to the table in 2018? How are you different than the year before?

2. What fears are you bringing into 2018? Are you afraid of failing, not meeting your goals again? Maybe you're afraid of getting close to someone in fear of disappointment. Take a moment to identify any fears you're carrying. The more you shed light on fear, the more you have the power to overcome it. 

3. What do you want to be more of in 2018? Try to summarize your answer into a short sentence or phrase, something you can remember easily. Consider making this one of your mantras entering the new year.

4. Can you identify what you’re most hopeful for in 2018? An event, milestone, moment, ect…

5. What’s it going to take to reach that?

6. Out of the list you just made, what’s in your control and what’s not? Choose to let go of the things that aren’t and identify practical steps to move toward the things that are.

7. How are you going to honor your body in 2018?

8. Your soul?

9. Mind?

10. Heart?

11. Who are you going to invite to stand next to you in 2018? Maybe it’s your BFF or a friend you just met - whatever the case, write down that person’s name and make a conscious plan for how you plan to involve that person in your life. If there’s more than one, list them all.

12. How are you going to be kind to yourself this year? Can you identify some rhythms you want to put in place to help you stay engaged, present, and healthy? Maybe it’s going on a walk for 20 minutes each morning or setting aside time twice a year to get away. Identify at least one thing and list it below.


My hope for you this year is that you live full, integrated, healthy and aware. The more you recognize where you've come from and how you're entering this new season, the more prepared you will be to become your truest self. And I hope above all, that we all learn to be kinder to ourselves this year. 2018 is going to be good, friends. 

One Simple Skill Forgotten

I was listening to a podcast on my way home from work last month about the NFL protest and how it started as a simple act to draw awareness to racism in America, specifically police brutality. The podcast played a clip of President Trump's reaction. I got sick to my stomach as I listened to him call the athletes names as the crowd cheered and suggest they be fired and punished.

After the clip the host claimed that most American white people think the protest stands for something totally different than what it was originally intended for. Sure, there may be some players kneeling for different reasons, but the fact that our President has changed the narrative to belittle black NFL athletes for disrespecting the flag and our country is concerning. What's even more concerning to me is that most of (white) America believes him. 

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This is one example of how the white voice has taken over the American narrative. If you think about it, many prominent voices in our media and culture today are majority members. Maybe this doesn't mean to much to you, but when the white voices stop listening to the minority voices, things get ugly. 

I'm not here to talk politics, nor am I hear to point fingers. I don't think either of those things are very productive, to be honest. But I am here to humbly suggest that we have a listening problem. 

In one of my classes at Fuller Seminary, we are discussing spiritual practices, one of which is the act of listening. When the lecture began, I was tempted to check out, thinking I already knew what I needed to know about listening. I mean, how hard can it be? But I leaned in as some of my fellow classmates offered stories of being dismissed, unheard, not listened to. I looked a little closer and noticed every single person that shared this kind of experience as a minority member. 

Toward the end of our class discussion, one of my classmates suggested that listening is not the same thing as silence. It's active and patient. It doesn't lead with an agenda, nor does it speak over the voice that's talking. 

I was so convicted sitting there in the back of the classroom, wondering how many times I've started a conversation with my own agenda in mind or only half-listened to take advantage of a break in conversation to share my own point of view. That isn't listening, friends. 

I may be so bold to suggest that our culture's future hinges on this one skill. As a white American, it's easy to expect others to listen to me, which is not something I'm proud of. I was raised to believe that I am worthy of being listened to. But do I believe that about my minority friends, too? 

Listening isn't rocket science. It's a simple concept, really. But it takes practice, awareness, and intentionality. It takes participating in a conversation simply to be present. It takes letting down walls, choosing not to respond defensively, and taking the time to truly understand what the person in front of us is saying. 

Don't let the media tell you what to think. Get to know people. Listen to their stories and ask good questions. This is the skill that's missing for many white Americans, including myself.

The Wholehearted Hero: Erica Kaze

I'm so excited to introduce you to October's Wholehearted Hero. This woman has challenged me in so many ways. She let me into her world, allowed me to humbly (and at times naively) ask questions, and shared vulnerably about her experiences and reality as a minority and non-American citizen. To say I learned from her is an understatement.

Walking with Erica has marked me and I consider it an honor and privilege to be a part of her journey. She's influenced much of my own thoughts, worldview, and even future plans. I hope you are just as inspired and challenged by her openness and passion as she writes below!


1. Hi Erica! Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you came from. What drew you to Baylor
University, to Finance, and ultimately staying in Waco to work at a local bank after graduation? 

I was born in Burundi, one of the smallest countries in Africa, located in East Africa. When I was 13 years old, my family and I moved to Rwanda, also located in East Africa. I graduated from Riviera High School (RHS), a private boarding school located 30 min away from the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali , then I came to Texas for college. I recently graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Finance. Baylor is well known at RHS because of the yearly summer trips the business school takes to Rwanda. They partner with RHS to work on different entrepreneurship projects and competitions. During my freshman and sophomore years of college, I thought I wanted to be an engineer simply because so many family members are engineers. It is also a joke among Africans that African children only have three career options: doctor, engineer or lawyer. But then the summer after my sophomore year, I realized that I would probably be miserable for most of my life if I end up working as an engineer. So I switch to business and after talking to the Baylor professor who leads the summer trips to Rwanda, I realized that my passion for numbers could turn into a career that I could also use back at home. So that is how I ended up with a finance major. I chose to work in banking for multiple reasons. Some of it being that banks have the potential of changing the future of a community and that is something I am so passionate about especially since Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world.

2. Listening to your experience about job searching as an international student has been extremely eye-opening for me. What’s it like trying to get hired as a minority member? What about as a non U.S. citizen? 

It is practically impossible to get a job offer as an international student in the U.S. especially as an undergraduate student. This is because after graduation, we have about 12 months to work or intern in the U.S. then if a company wants to keep us on their payroll, they need to apply for a H-1B work visa for us and that's where it gets tricky. There is never a guarantee that a student will get a work visa even if they have a job offer which is why most companies don't hire us. But of course, there are exceptions to this. This is the biggest battle I've ever had to fight. This process became discouraging pretty quickly when amazing opportunities kept closing simply because my
citizenship is different.

3. Have you experienced bias in the work place or in the hiring process? If so, how?

Oh, absolutely! While I was interviewing most recruiters would always point out the fact that my English is "perfect". Apparently, I should sound different simply because I grew up in Africa. Also, just this week I was told by one of my supervisors that maybe I should stop reading books and news articles in French so that my English writing skills could improve. I have been speaking English and writing it for 9 years. 

4. What does unconscious bias mean to you? What biases do you face on a regular basis? 

Unconscious bias to me is simply stereotyping a person or group of people and expecting them to be/do certain things a certain way simply because they belong to a particular race or ethnicity. I will be the first one to say that I also struggle with this one. Two weekends ago, I was in NYC and my Uber driver who took me to the airport was from Uzbekistan and I found myself wondering why this Asian guy was playing rap music in the car and was jamming to it. I found myself doing the same thing that I hate when people stereotype me when I am listening to
country music since I am black. Lord, help us all.

5. What was it like being a minority in a predominately white community and university? What are some challenges you face regularly?

I struggled a lot with being a minority at Baylor but also within my church community. For my first two years in Waco, I just felt like I didn't connect with anyone and it was really hard for me to make friends. Not only was I black at a predominantly white school and white church, I was also from a different country, my culture was different, and everything about me was different compared to the typical Baylor student. I have heard that research has revealed that the lack of early and meaningful exposure to other groups of people often makes it easier for us to quickly identify and remember people of our own ethnicity or race while we often struggle to do the same for others.

I can attest that this is true. During those first two years at Baylor, white girls didn't really befriend me. I had to make effort after effort to become friends with some of the girls I knew but it just seemed like the efforts were coming from one way. I remember one Tuesday morning during my first year at Baylor going to class and noticing this girl I had seen around church. At this point it was the spring semester and I honestly still couldn’t tell you who my friends were. So I said to myself, "she seems nice and already has a black friend, maybe if I go sit next to her we
would become friends too?" Three years later, Meryn is one of my best friends. But I don't take all the credit for how our friendship started because Meryn had decided in high school that she was going to be intentional about her group of friends and specifically befriend people of other races and ethnicities. Her willingness and intentionality opened a door for us to become friends.

Pictured above is Erica and her friend Meryn. 

Pictured above is Erica and her friend Meryn. 

6. What's something you wish majority members knew about you? What's something you feel most majority members assume about you? 

I will probably never fully fit into your stereotype of a black person. I hear black people can't swim, but I was on the swimming team of my high school and I was pretty good at it. So just get to know me. Ask me questions instead of assuming. 

7. In your opinion, what does racial reconciliation look like? And what steps can I take as a
majority to bridge the gap?

When I hear those two words, racial reconciliation, I think of Revelation 7:9 - "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands."

I dream of days when we won't have a black church, Hispanic church or Asian church but simply a church full of people from every nation, tribe and language worshipping God together.
One of my favorite things this year is that I am living with 4 amazing girls. Our house of 5 is very diverse: two white girls, one Hispanic, one Asian and me. As I spend more time with my roommates, I am learning so much about them, their families, and I finally understand why most Asian people take off their shoes before entering a room. Haha. It is amazing how much we learn when we get out of our bubble and put ourselves in situations with people who don't look like us or who were not raised like we were.

My recommendation to everyone who is reading this is to get out of your bubble. Be strategic and figure out where people are then go and do life with them. If you live in Waco, you are
probably not going to find a lot of African Americans at your favorite local coffee shop, Common Grounds, but I bet you would make at least one friend at the local YMCA while playing basketball.

8. Have you ever been treated differently because of your race or background? If so, when? When are you most aware of your race?

Oh for sure! One time, a friend pulled my ponytail as I was walking past him. It wasn’t in a mean way. I think he was fascinated by my box braids. But his actions left me wondering if he would have done the same things if I was white. By the way, just a public service announcement, please don't touch a black person's hair without their permission. Most of us hate that. It makes us feel like you are petting our heads like you pet your dog. Please don’t do it, it is disrespectful and uncomfortable. 

Recently, I have had a hard time attending social events. No one wants to be the only black person at a wedding full of white people.

9. What are some of your dreams for your life right now? Where do you see yourself in 5-10
years? 

I am currently working in the banking industry. I am really enjoying my job and I can see myself being in this industry long-term. The banking industry is dominated by white male which bothers me so much. My plan is to earn my MBA in the next 2-4 years and hopefully end up in a leadership role in a few years. It is about time more women and people of color have a seat in the C-suite.

10. One of my favorite things about you is how confident you are - there's a powerful strength
about you that impresses me every time we're together. What advice would you give to other
minorities struggling to find their own voice? And how did you find your voice and embrace your
own identity? 

Wow, thanks for that compliment. I think that I draw my confidence from my determination to not be ignorant. I spend a lot of time educating myself. I do my best at keeping myself knowledgeable by listening to the news daily, podcasts, and reading books. So when I interact with people, I have a well that I can draw knowledge from and not feel embarrassed. But I would say that my relationship with God has played the most important part. When you are told by a racist person that they don’t like black people because “black is a bad color”, you just have to figure out
what the creator says about you then decide who you are going to listen to. And according to my Bible, Psalm
139:13-14 says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it very well.” I just took this as the truth I need to believe and that God defines who I am and not this world.

11. What comes to mind when you hear the term, "wholehearted living"? 

When I hear those two words “living wholeheartedly”, my brain automatically asks me which areas of my life need improvement. I do my best to not be complacent with where I am in life. So once in a while, I evaluate my life and try to identify areas that need some improvement. I try to not overdo it so I choose 1-3 areas then work on them until I am satisfied with the results. These are not New Year’s resolutions by any means. These are things that I know for a fact that if I don’t make changes now, there will be consequences in the future.

12. Is there anyone or anything that's been inspiring you to live wholeheartedly recently? Maybe a favorite author or podcast? 

I just started a new job recently and there have been lots of changes in my life. Right now, I am learning so much about personal finance so I visit Dave Ramsey’s website pretty often, I am also
listening to podcasts: Millennial Money and The Clever Girls Know. I also listen to a podcast from the New York Times every morning called “The Daily”.


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Born in Burundi and raised in Rwanda, Erica is currently living and working in Texas. She surrendered her life to Jesus when she was 15 years old and never looked back. She discovered college football when she came to Texas for college and now absolutely loves it. She enjoys listening to rap music and sleeping in on Saturday mornings. She is passionate about politics, racial reconciliation, education and anything business related. 

If you're curious about learning more about unconscious bias and how it affects minority members, like Erica, sign up to receive my free work guide. Because of my friendship with people like Erica, I'm more committed than ever to overcoming my own bias in order to love the people in front of me. My life has become much richer because of it! 

Painful Endings & Small Beginnings

This time last year I felt as though my life plan had just pulled out from under me. I was confused, hurt, lonely, frustrated, and desperate for some sort of direction. I was still reeling from the shock and pain of a break-up and disappointing loss in my family. The trauma of my summer experience working with refugees was fresh in my mind, and I had just quit my job, abandoning my only source of steady income. It was as if I had just experienced an earthquake, and the ground I was standing on didn't exist anymore. 

I'm starting to wonder if your 20's are made up of a series of painful endings and small beginnings. At over halfway through, my guess is looking pretty spot on. Maybe you can relate. The death of friendships. The death of dreams. The death of future plans. The death of love. That's a lot of deaths. And a lot of closed doors. 

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You've probably heard the saying "when one door closes, another opens", right? But that's probably the last thing you want to hear in the midst of a painful ending. Like a break-up, or any kind of loss, really. 

In the kitchen of a family friend last fall, I remember tears falling and nearly ugly crying as she encouraged me with the words above. Another door would open soon, she offered. And she was right, but if only it was that easy (or fast). 

I was both frustrated and comforted by her words, wondering if what she said was true. I pictured myself in a hallway, knocking on doors, waiting for one to open, or for someone to at least tell me if I was getting closer. I felt stuck. 

But that's where the good stuff happens. It's where we learn to dig deep, find ourselves and God, and grow up. I didn't know this season was on the other side, but now, looking back, I'm so grateful. I'm currently living a new dream in LA pursuing grad school and working at a creative marketing agency. Oftentimes the painful endings lead to the small beginnings we've been waiting for. And I wouldn't change it. 


My decision to quit my job last fall prompted me to start writing and freelancing, which ultimately led to the development of my first work guide, Build Bridges Not Walls. Sign up to receive this free resource and join us in creating honest conversations with people different than us.