Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Black and White

I have been ruminating on the killing of Treyvon Martin for several weeks now. I'm sure lots of people have been. It's incredibly personal to me. You see, I'm the mother of a young Black man.

My first two children are biracial, African American/White. They are in their mid-twenties now and on their own, but that doesn't mean I don't worry about them. Especially my son. As a young Black man, he is in a high risk category. The same category as Treyvon Martin.

I remember teaching my son to drive. The most important lesson wasn't how to shift gears or brake safely on ice; the most important lesson was "What to do when you are stopped by the police." Like... Keep your hands in plain sight and STILL. And... Say "Yes, Sir" or "No, Ma'am" and THAT'S IT. No smart mouth! I must have taught him well because he's been stopped many times, and he's still alive.

I've been thinking a lot about White Privilege since Treyvon Martin's murder. How so many White people truly believe that things have changed. And about how my two adult children experience life so differently from what I did as a young White adult. How the issues of Black and White are anything but black and white.

And then...
A realization that should've been blatant to me, but was shocking in its ability to hide: I have basked in White Privilege ever since I became a parent to my youngest child. She is five years old, and she looks White. She is actually of mixed races, but she looks White, which in America still means she's White.

Which means she "fits" me, to the outside world. Which means WE, as a family, are privileged to: 1) Live where we want without comment; 2) Attend events with no sideways glances from either White or Black people; 3) Never be questioned about whether she's "really mine;" 4) Let her look at the Disney Princesses while I shop for a camera at Target (within sight, but I never would've done that with my first two children); and 5) Many more things that I haven't thought of yet, I'm sure.

And the thought of living inside White Privilege hadn't even crossed my mind until Treyvon Martin's killing. Not even a whisper of it. That's how insidious White Privilege is. It's just "normal." Doesn't everyone think, live, act like that? If not, THEY must have a problem.

THEIR problem is that WE are so blind to the institutional prejudices in our society, to the habits of thought and behavior that are considered so normal that we don't even notice them.

If you want to know whether discrimination and prejudice are gone from our society, ASK. Then LISTEN. Ask more than one person. Read some of the blogs and articles written after Treyvon Martin's murder.  ASK my son what it's like to shop at the mall as a young Black man; I'll bet it's different from your experiences. ASK my daughter how many times she's been pulled over for DWB. Ask every mother of a young Black man what worries them.

Just ASK.
Then trust that the truth is more complicated than a life lived inside White Privilege.

I think the reality of the world is NOT black and white; it's FULL-COLOR. Like glass. Each type of glass, each shading and pattern, is unique.

Like each person. That's the beauty of it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Moving Day

Me, in front of the door to my new studio

 For those of you who don't know, my family is moving. I have moved many times in my life, so the process is familiar, but this move is different in many ways.

 First, contrary to what most people do, we have sold our lovely, suburban home to move into a much older (built in 1890!) rental home. Some of our friends and family think we're a bit looney for doing so. We truly have had a gorgeous home in a quiet neighborhood with wonderful neighbors. My husband has lived here for 19 years, and I have lived here for the past 4 1/2 years, since our marriage.

Second, we are only moving 2 miles away, so it's not like we're relocating for new jobs or anything. I will continue as a homeschooling mom and stained glass artist, and my husband will continue working at the Mayo Clinic.

Our daughter, checking out the barn next to the studio
So what is our plan? Why are we moving? Why am I leaving a world-class glass studio in my home for a somewhat makeshift studio in an outbuilding on an old farmstead within the city limits?

Because God has called us. Specifically, He has called my husband to the ministry. Before we even met, my husband began a distance program to obtain his Master of Divinity. He has spent most of the past six years as a theology student, and has spent the last few months actively searching for a church call.

And we wait.

We have prayed that we can be faithful and patient while we wait. We have done lots of things to facilitate the anticipated change in career, including my resigning my teaching job. 

A few months ago, we decided that we should put our house on the market because it might take a while to sell it. We had a good back-up plan (renting the farmstead). In November, after much clearing out and cleaning up, we put the house on the market... and almost nobody came to see it! We had an opportunity to take it off the market for the holiday season, so we did.

In February, we listed it again and it sold in five days. Good thing we had our back-up plan! I started packing in earnest and tried to figure out how I could do my glass work without my studio. It turns out that the farmstead has an outbuilding that is finished inside, with upgraded electric service. Perfect for my studio!

So, I've moved about 500 pounds of glass, myriad glass tools, a ton (seemingly, anyway!) of lead came, and my cupboards and counters into a non-heated, non-air-conditioned, somewhat musty, but usable space. I have one more load of materials to transport, and then I have to get things set up again so I can work. Maybe this week!

And our family waits to move the household goods until April 9th, when the renovations on the bathroom and flooring in the farmhouse will be done (hopefully, anyway!). Living between two places is a small challenge, and we are looking forward to playing in the 4+ acres of lawn, field, and trees this summer.

But most of all, we wait for God's call to come. Sometimes impatiently (me, at least). And we trust that He will continue to grow us in faith and service while we wait.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Brittle Glass

I love glass that cuts easily! It's just so nice to hear the satisfying screech of the cutter on the glass, see the cracking glass under the score before I even apply pressure, and to feel the glass give way exactly on the score. Ahh......

Sometimes the glass is more of a challenge, and I have to get out my specialty pliers that apply even pressure on both top and bottom of the glass. Crack! The glass can still bring the satisfaction of a perfect break. Sometimes, I have to get my flat pliers (with no ridges to mar the glass) and my spring-loaded pliers, and use both of them to pry the glass apart.

And then there's the brittle glass.

There is some glass that breaks wrong almost every time. It is often of inconsistent texture and/or quality. It's sometimes incredibly thick for stained glass use. It breaks irregularly and with difficulty... And, of course, it's some of the most beautiful glass around.

I love how brittle glass looks, but shaping it into what I need for an art piece is difficult, sometimes impossible. I wonder how many of us are like that to God? We might look good; we might even look like good Christians, but are we amenable to God's shaping? 

I would love to say that I'm one of the obedient glass types that is easy to cut, but if I'm honest, it's taken a lifetime of chiseling away at my rough edges to make me even slightly similar to God's plan for me. 

In the past few years, I have discovered one prayer that has opened my life to God's changes. I now frequently ask God to change what I want instead of asking God to change my circumstances. I find myself changing in ways that surprise me. I hope the changes please God, and I will continue to pray that God shapes my desires in ways that delight Him.

"Become One"

Monday, March 12, 2012

All the Answers

I'm supposed to be an expert on glass and stained glass making. At least that's what the people who will be in the audience at an April presentation will think. I'm talking as an artist about my glass work and my faith. The topic is comfortable for me, and I'm not really all that shy about public speaking. (I've been a teacher for over two decades!)

But that "Question and Answer" period; THAT has had me worried. Because, see, I don't know lots of things about glass and glass art. I'm not formally trained in art at all. I don't even know what all the accurate names for types of glass are! I found that out at a glass store the other day. I caught myself listening in to a store employee give a "beginner" a little
 of the jargon about glass... and I was learning a LOT!

So, I've been a little worried... but not too worried. One of the things I've accepted in my life is that it's okay NOT to know. It's okay NOT to know the answers to the fourth graders' questions about what will happen if people don't change their ways (or if they do!). It's okay NOT to know whether that glass is cathedral or baroque, hammered or granite.

 And it's okay NOT to know why God allows bad things to happen in our lives. Or what happens to people who commit suicide. Or if God only selects some people to accept Christ, or if all are invited and humans have to accept or reject the invitation. Or exactly what heaven is like....

When someone asks me how I know that God is real or that Jesus has redeemed me, I speak from personal experience. I tell them how when I was a small girl, waiting for my dad to come pick me up for a visit, I felt Jesus' arms around me when it became clear my dad wasn't coming.

I tell them about my loss of faith for many years following college...and finding it again by attending a church regularly. One Sunday, when communion was ready to be served and I was ready to pass it by again, I was clearly filled with a message: Just take it. It's MY faithfulness you can depend upon. Not yours. You are my child, and I am here, like I've always been. Just act and trust.

  I tell them about the period of my life when my son was removed from our home out of fear for my daughter's life, when my husband went to jail for molesting a child, when I got divorced and faced single parenthood,

when both of my dads were critically ill on the same weekend...all  within a six-month period. I tell them that the only way I could face my life at that point (and many others) was with God's strength and the knowledge that all things are in His hands.

I tell them that God has provided the wisdom, energy, and endurance to parent one of our grandchildren, whom we have adopted as our daughter. She's five, and we're over fifty! But it is a JOY to be her parents, and she  is thriving.

Most of all, I tell them that God's love and grace has grown me and continues to grow me. I can tell that I am more patient, understanding, peaceful, and insightful than I have been in all my life. I look forward to God's ongoing work in me; it's far better than any maturing I could have done on my own!

 So if you're waiting for all the answers to be given before you take the leap of faith, jump in! The water's fine and the company is great. Even Jesus' disciple, Thomas, had his doubts.  We can say, as the father of the child possessed by a demon (Mark 9), "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Friday, March 2, 2012

Slivers of Glass

Glass is sharp. No big surprise, there, huh?  And I have lots of glass in my studio, of course. Like most glass artists, I have more than my share of "Ouch!" stories. Maybe I'll share them sometime, but not today. Today I want to talk about glass slivers, those itsy bitsy shards that fly off when I break the glass.

Breaking glass is an interesting skill. At first, I was terrified to put the needed pressure on the glass and pop the score in my hands. I felt like I was going to cut myself every time. After a while, I got confident enough that I wasn't scared. And now, it seems like I have a sixth sense about how and where the glass will break. It's FUN! But I still make glass slivers when I break glass; I think that's a given. It's also inevitable that I get splinters of glass in my hands. I'm adamant about wearing shoes in my studio, so I don't get them in my feet. I've gotten a couple on my face when I rub my face with my hand (ouch!), but that's about the extent of where I've gotten them...

...until a couple of weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, I somehow got a small sliver of glass in my calf. It didn't hurt, and I didn't notice it until it became red and raised. It still didn't hurt when I rubbed it (glass usually does), and I thought it was one more of those age-related skin bumps. (If you're under 40, you probably don't know what I mean, but you will.) I noticed it again when I nicked it shaving, and again a couple of days later when my daughter said, "Mom, what's that?"

At that point, I became a little worried and took a closer look. I realized that it was infected and probably was some kind of splinter. I took the glass sliver out and put some antibiotic cream on my calf.

And started thinking about how like my life this was:  Small sins are so easy to ignore, to not even notice them. It's easy to point out the major sins of our (or others') lives; we have no doubts about adultery, burglary, murder... But when it comes to selfishness, egotism, discrimination, etc., it's so easy to minimize. So easy to ignore. So easy to forget about. However, just like that unknown glass shard, these sins fester and eventually bring damage. Damage like broken relationships and unmet dreams.

The biggest damage from our "small" sins is our broken relationship with God. We are ALL sinners and subject to His judgment, and His grace. I can ask Him for forgiveness and help in defeating even those small sins, and build a better relationship with those around me... and with Him.