Summer 2018 Reading List

Today marks the last day of my Spring quarter, meaning I've completed my first year of graduate school! It's hard to believe I'm about a third of the way through my program; it feels like just yesterday I started my first class. 

Now that my last paper has been submitted, I'm officially in summer mode. I'm anticipating space and time to enjoy my first summer in L.A. and though I'll be working full time, I can put the school work to the side for a few months. One of my goals is to read all the books I've wanted to read but didn't have time for! So many of you have asked about books I'd recommend, especially related to race and culture. Here's a list to get you started!

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1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I read this in a week or two - super easy read. It's a novel that follows the life of an African American girl who must reconcile her culture and neighborhood with her private school life, which predominantly consists of middle class white people. There is language and some adult material, though it helped me understand the perspective of someone coming into my world. 

2. Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People

I just started this one! One of my classmates recommended this book. I love reading anything I can find on the subject of unconscious bias, and this one is easy to read, and less heady than some of the other materials I've studied. Don't read this if you don't want to be convicted by your own biases!

3. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

This was my favorite book I read all quarter. It made me cry and get angry at some points, but it's incredibly valuable to look at our nation's history from a minority perspective. I learned things in this book I NEVER heard before. It reads a bit like a history book, but the author also published a version of the book for youth - I hear it's easier to read. 

4. So You Want to Talk About Race?

I have not read this book yet, though I can't wait to dive in. A friend of mine recommended this and I've read this it's a great bridge between people of color and white Americans looking to understand the complexities of race. The author seems pretty straight-forward and takes on some heavy issues like police brutality, micro-aggressions, Black Lives Matter, and white privilege. 

5. The Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and Mother's Love

This has been on my list for quite a while! This book is actually about mental illness, another part taboo topic in our culture. There are elements of both race and culture present, and the main character is actually from my home town. I can't wait to share what I think about this one!

6. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Some of my old co-workers turned me on to this book. It was named the best book of the year by Amazon and the Wall Street Journal. The book is about the Osage Indians in Oklahoma and one of the greatest and most under-reported tragedies in our nation's history. I'm looking forward to pick this up this summer. 

7. Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race

I haven't read this book yet, either, though I came across it on Amazon. I'm a sucker for a good memoir, and the reviews of this book said it was vulnerable, funny, and "cringe-worthy." I imagine I have similar experiences as the author, who grew up as a white American and started to realize the impact of race in our country in her young adult years. 

8. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race

Listed as another bestseller, this book has been recommended by several people. The author is a psychologist and talks about the importance of addressing racial identity in our culture. 

9. The Leavers

This is a novel about an undocumented Chinese immigrant and her son's journey to finding belonging in a culture that is not his own. I haven't read it yet, though a good friend recommended it! It's a story of loss, sacrifice, and adoption. I'm sure I'll cry my way through it!

10. Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World

I read this book in my U.S. Ethnicities class and found it so practical and helpful. If you work in any sort of intercultural setting, in the church or outside, this is a great resource. It's also ready to read as many authors contributed to it and tell their own stories in each chapter. 

Build Bridges Not Walls Table Event

Last weekend I had the honor of co-hosting a dinner event for 16 women in Los Angeles, California. I knew I wanted to bring the Build Bridges Not Walls curriculum into small group settings, and when Katie from At the Lane suggested hosting an event together, I knew this was an opportunity I had been looking for! 

Katie tackled the registration and set-up (which was a dream by the way), and I facilitated the conversation using my work guide curriculum. We started with conversation cards provided by Lumitory, a brand that creates products to facilitate hospitality in your home. The cards were the perfect way to begin the evening and get the conversation started. 

As we ate dinner around the table together I couldn't help but notice the table as an equalizer. Each woman, no matter what ethnicity or background, was sharing together, providing our bodies nourishment and sustenance. It was a beautiful picture of community to me. 

The night continued with prompts and thoughtful discussion questions centered around our interactions with the construct of race. Women shared bravely about their experiences and asked vulnerable questions about how to relate to both women of color and privilege. It was clear to me by the end of the night that spaces like this need to be created and protected.

I am by no means an expert on this topic, neither do I always have the right words to say. In fact, I've pretty afraid of being wrong. But I do know that when someone is willing to step out first, risk, and ask questions, it paves a way for others to feel safe, known, and seen. 

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An Invitation to Deconstruction

What comes to mind when you hear the word "deconstruction?" Does it sound intimidating, challenging, complicated, insightful, fun? It's likely a mixture of all of the above. Yet this deconstruction has been one of my very favorite parts of being in graduate school thus far. 

Last Fall I sat down with another student in my program who was about to graduate. I asked her what advice she'd give to someone just starting out, and she said with a slight smirk on her face, to "expect deconstruction." I thought it was a funny thing to say, but just a few weeks later, I experienced this firsthand. 

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Deconstruction is fancy term to explain what happens when you begin questioning everything - from values to beliefs, worldview, bias, and actions. It's a bit unnerving at first, but the end goal is ownership and a lifestyle of action and reflection. In short, deconstruction helps us understand the "why" behind what we do, believe, say, and think. 

How many of you would say you're able to articulate why you do certain things, believe certain things, or say what you say? For most of us it's second-nature; however, when we take the time to examine and reflect on our actions, we open ourselves up to growing and changing. It takes courage to deconstruct and it is my goal to invite you into my deconstruction process so that it becomes a bit easier (or more accessible) for those of you reading. 

I'm in a class right now about ethnicity in the United States and we are in the process of deconstructing cultural values and worldviews. I am realizing how much my Middle-American upbringing has influenced me. It's quite amazing (and humbling). 

Like it or not, each of us is a product of our culture. We grow up being nurtured in a specific cultural context and learn to adopt the worldview of that culture. According to one of my professors at Fuller, "a worldview is a complex multifaceted fabric of beliefs, often submerged, concerning the world - what it is, how its parts interact and the places of humans." In short, worldview is how we see the world. 

There's no right or wrong kind of worldview, contrary to our Western "black and whiteness." It simply exists. I prefer things to be clear and explainable, though that's not really realistic or possible. I hope to continue examining specific cultural values, like time, progress, individualism, and invisible realities. My hope is to move toward other cultures, continue deconstructing my American worldview, and learning to set aside my differences to embrace others. 

Have you ever thought about why you believe what you believe and see what you see?

Consider this your invitation to start exploring the "why" behind what you do and why you do it. Ask friends of different backgrounds what they see and do and compare it to your own understanding. There will likely be differences, but it's important to note these differences are not black and white or right and wrong. Their just different. Self-awareness of our worldview can be a powerful tool in learning to build bridges in community!

What I'm Most Grateful For in Year 26

I was sitting in class last week tuning out just a bit until something my professor said drew me back into the conversation, striking a deep chord in me. She was talking about gratitude and suggested that ingratitude comes dressed in restlessness and concerns about self-fulfillment and entitlement. Is there too much of a cultural emphasis on growth and success and getting our own way in the world that we forget to be grateful? 

I don't know about you, but I definitely identify with restlessness in my own life. It's so easy to focus on the unknowns and the not-yets. And to be honest, that's where my head has been at for a majority of my 20's so far. When is _________ going to happen? Why is _________ happening to me? Where am I going next? What does _________ have to do with me? 

Can you relate? I wish those questions didn't make up a large percentage of my inner dialogue, but unfortunately they do. In the last few months I've started practicing gratitude more regularly and it's totally changing the story for me. Instead of looking at what I don't have and focusing on the questions I don't have answered, I started listing the things I did have. And you know what? I've come a long way. I feel more settled, more me. 

Last year I wrote a post about 25 things I learned in my 25th year, but this year I'm going to list 26 things I'm thankful for in my 26th year. I turn 27 tomorrow and I'm full of anticipation of what it will hold.

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I'm grateful for... 

1. My parents - I'm amazed at the strength, mercy, and resilience they've fought for and displayed this year. I've learned so much from them. 

2. Fuller Seminary - I was honestly a bit turned off by the idea of seminary at first, but this school has been such a gift to me so far. I love getting to learn alongside such a diverse group of people who challenge and encourage me. 

3. A summer abroad - Every time I think back to my summer in Peru, I smile. All the adventure, exploring, living daily life in a new country made me feel at home, doing / being what I was supposed to be. 

4. Modern air travel - Though I moved several time zones away from all of my family and friends, I am grateful they are only a plane flight away. 

5. Sunshine - Thank you SoCal!

6. A running buddy / new roommate - Betsy is running a half marathon with me this weekend! 

7. A new church home - It took me a while, but once I got past my own fear, I've been really grateful for the people at Epicentre Pasadena. Already feels like family to me. 

8. Class Pass - YA'LL. This app totally changed my fitness game. You can go to hundreds of different studios and classes with ONE app (plus it's cheaper than a monthly membership at places like Pure Barre and Core Power). 

9. My own room - I've shared a room the past few years (and loved it), but having my own space has been so refreshing to me. 

10. New friends - It always takes a while to transition to a new place, but I'm starting to feel more settled, largely due to the people I've met so far. 

11. Free cable - I haven't had cable since I lived with my parents in high school, so it's quite a treat, especially as March Madness begins this month. :) 

12. An all-knowing, ever-present God - This may sound cliche, but knowing the God I am relationship with knows all things and brings all things together brings me peace and allows me to rest. I don't have to know because He does. 

13. Trader Joe's (and the distance between my house and the nearest store) - Grocery shopping will never be the same. I live for TJ seasonal items. 

14. The intimacy that follows risk - I could write a whole post about this, but even when risk is hard, there's always a sweet side. I never want to stop leaning in. 

15. The Rose Bowl - I've trained for all my long runs here and it's been quite good to me. It's also only 2.25 miles from my house (mostly downhill) which is always a good mood booster to start off the long milers. 

16. The food options in LA - Nothing against my old town of Waco, but it literally cannot compete with LA food wise. I could eat any type of food imaginable within an hour of my house. 

17. Social media - I took a month off in December (which was really good, by the way), but since being back, I've gotten to see the power of using social media to build a platform and to connect with people. 

18. My sweet lil laptop from college is still plugging along - I'm praying it doesn't give out before I can afford a new one. It's survived a lot (including a major coffee spill last Spring). 

19. The time and space I've had this year to settle into myself - I've had a lot of time to think and be intentional about my next steps. Looking back, I'm realizing how rare that is and what a gift it's been! 

20. Going blonde - I just feels like it fits me. 

21. Open doors - Though there have been several closed doors, I can't ignore all the ones that have opened. I've been given some incredible opportunities, like travel and education. Each closed door has gotten me closer to where I'm supposed to be. 

22. Momentum in my writing - I can't believe I just went for it and am about to self-publish my first work guide. It comes out in less than two weeks! 

23. The confidence I've gained this year - I feel way more secure in who I am than I did this time last year. I really like who I am and I know what I bring to the table, and it feels good. 

24. Kombucha - My newfound love and beverage of choice. Call me basic, but I'm obsessed. 

25. A body that moves and changes with me - I've experimented a lot this year with different foods and options and I'm grateful God gave me this body to grow in. I still don't understand a lot of things, but I do know that what we put into our bodies matters and how we move them does, too. 

26. Finally, I couldn't close this post without thanking my dear friends. To those of you who have carried, prayed, loved, and encouraged me near and far - I cannot say thank you enough. In the midst of unknowns, pain, disappointment, new beginnings, and what-if's, my people have loved me so well. I am entering 27 reminded of how rich in relationship I am, and even though I live far away now, I know I am valued and seen. 

Thank you for making 26 a year to remember. Here's to 27! 

The Worst Job Interview I Ever Had

A few weeks ago I interviewed at a company in Los Angeles. I walked into a beautiful studio space thinking just a few years ago this would have been a dream job for me. The walls were white, the office clean, the decor on point. My interviewer introduced herself to me wearing a millennial pink trench and Warby Parker glasses. It seemed picture perfect. 

 Photo: Simply Adri Photography

Photo: Simply Adri Photography

After a round of question asking and answering, she offered to take me on a tour of the office. She took me by the photo studio then introduced me to the women in the front office. She greeted each one by name and proceeded to explain each woman's job description. After meeting a few people, I noticed something that completely caught me off guard. Every single employee (save one) was white. 

Next she asked me to follow her into the production area of the building. Seated at a large square table were six to eight women - none of them white. This room had a very different vibe than the first, and instead of greeting the women by name, my interviewer referred to the production team as a collective group, not once looking one of them in the eye. Then she made a comment that shocked me so much I had to use self control to keep my mouth from falling open. 

She told me that "they" didn't care as much what this space looked like since no one ever saw this part of the office anyway. Then she turned and said "Now the only other significant person I want you to meet is..." She was standing right in front of the group of middle-aged African American and Hispanic women, as if she didn't even notice (or care). 

I made eye contact with one and tried to smile nervously, but she immediately looked away. I wondered how many people get a tour of the office and never get to know her name. My interviewer didn't seem to know it either. And it really bothered me. 

A few years ago I'm not sure I would have even noticed the exchange, but now I simply can't unsee. What happened in that interview was called workplace racial bias. And it's not something I can excuse, nor will I quickly look the other way. 

In the end, I left feeling so grateful for the education I've received and for the friends from different backgrounds who have let me into their stories. I realized then, that I am a different person than I was a few years ago. I smiled. It felt good to be different. 

Once you start seeing other people for who they are regardless of their skin color or background, you can't just turn it off. If we let it, self-awareness and education help us get past our unconscious bias. 

If any of this hits home with you, sign up for my newsletter to get five days of FREE access to my work guide, Build Bridges Not Walls. My goal is to walk with you to help align your perceptions with your values so we can all build bridges in the context of community. Join me! 

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