GUEST AUTHOR: KRISTINE MCDOWELL
Ever since I was a little girl, loving all different kinds of people was deeply instilled in me. My little world was very diverse and unique. My brother was born with special needs, and that alone created a lot of opportunity to become friends with many special needs kids and peers. God used my family and community dynamics to imbed within my heart a deep passion for people and the diverse beauty within each family, community, and country. In a world that keeps trying to press us into carbon copies or shove us into stereotypes, diversity is everywhere. There is not one person that is exactly like another. People are the pinnacle of God’s creation, His most amazing handiwork. His vast and infinite creativity is seen in each and every life, culture, and heritage. This reality is often lost and muddied as the world continually battles diversity with conformity. Our different cultures, upbringings, and the media can often shape who we believe is important and what is beautiful. Different theologies and doctrines have strayed time and time again from the truth,putting people and God Himself into a one-size-fits-all box. This sad pattern of conformity has been happening since the fall of Adam. Sin has a nasty way of tainting and destroying that which God made good. Diversity in people is God-made goodness and it is worth celebrating. He gave us diverse ethnicities, cultures, personalities, families, communities, abilities, and experiences. There is so much mystery and marvel within one person, let alone each little pocket and place on our earth. It’s incredible.
It is so important that TRUTH is talked about, celebrated, and taught within our homes and community circles. I am very passionate about celebrating people and teaching my children the value of diversity. I really believe if we don’t talk about different kinds of people, cultures, and social justice issues in an age-appropriate way and in light of a Biblical worldview, then our kids will form ideas based on their limited experiences and the world’s philosophies. They will come to accept bullying, prejudices, and hate crimes as inevitable (or possibly even acceptable) instead of avoidable. Celebrating diversity teaches our kids the importance of showing kindness and compassion, listening and learning, and loving others with different perspectives. It builds our kids’ confidence by reminding them that each person possesses his or her own unique beauty. It communicates that we are each an essential, important piece in our family and community, and that each life is as equally valuable as the next, regardless of skin color, ability, passions, beliefs, or backgrounds. Celebrating diversity is more than just inserting phrases like “be kind,” “Jesus loves you,” and “God made everyone special” into our conversations with our kids. It is venturing deeper by creating opportunities to teach, discuss, and practice loving all kinds of people, just as they are, so that our families can develop a heart for the world and a hunger to know the Creator behind each masterpiece.
Here are a few simple ways you can begin cultivating diversity with your family:
1. PRAY FOR MORE DIVERSITY WITHIN YOUR COMMUNITY
If you don’t already have a lot of diversity within your family, friends, church, or neighborhood, start praying for God to send a variety of people into your life. We live in a predominantly white, middle-class, conservative community and didn’t see many obvious avenues to mingle and make friends with people very different from us, so we began to pray. It’s been amazing to see how God has expanded our community within the last year. If you have a diverse community as a parent, your kids will too, and experience is one of the most powerful teachers!
2. BE A LEARNER
You may know the famous quote by Albert Einstein, “the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.” Don’t get so set in your own way of thinking that you cannot meet a situation, a person, a culture, or a belief with compassion. You may still disagree at the end of the day, but never stop being a humble learner. LISTEN to those who are different than you and seek to put your own lens on life down and look through theirs for a moment. With all that is happening in our world with racism, refugees, wars, poverty, and beyond, it is so important to listen and learn FIRST before speaking, debating, or posting on social media. The way you speak about people you disagree with or don’t understand will rub off on those closest to you! Especially kids, they watch and listen to everything!
3. MAKE YOUR HOME A SAFE PLACE FOR ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE
Our house is a gathering place for all of the neighborhood kids and many others. We want our home to be a safe, loving place for everyone who walks in, so we made it a rule: “Everyone must feel safe and loved.” We don’t tolerate bullying, name calling, or prejudices. We just don’t. If kids or adults insist on playing or talking in ways that are disrespectful or unkind, they are asked to take it somewhere else. This boundary line helps us emphasize the importance of kindness, respect, and healthy conflict resolution.
4. CREATE SPACES TO HELP YOUR FAMILY DISCOVER DIVERSITY
Create spaces to help your family DISCOVER diversity.
We have a whole corner in our playroom dedicated to celebrating diversity. This corner includes a myriad of children’s books intended to help our whole family learn more about other cultures and facilitate discussions that possibly would never happen otherwise. It has toys and items from different places around the world that my sister has brought back on her missionary journeys. We also desired to have way to represent different ethnic groups within our country and around the world, especially since our pocket of the U.S. is not very diverse. I researched diverse dolls for our girls, but ultimately, due to budget and having a little boy join the bunch, I decided to create peg dolls for my children. I made two different collections. One was an American set, reflecting several diverse ethnicities, but in more generic clothing. The other was an Around-the-World set that represented different cultures across the globe. After several months of researching, ordering books, and making peg dolls, my diversity corner for the kids was ready just in time for Christmas. It has been really fun being intentional about growing in this area as a whole family. We read books and play with the dolls often. The peg dolls have been a great tool. They leave lots of room for the imagination and can be played with using Lego’s, blocks, doll houses, and other stable toys. The boys and girls in our neighborhood ages 2-11 have enjoyed playing with the dolls. It’s quite fun to see such a simple toy be enjoyed in SO many ways. We use the dolls with our kids to talk about all kinds of issues and people in age-appropriate ways while having lots of fun at the same time.
The process of developing a diversity corner and my desire to see others celebrate the beauty of diversity in their own lives resulted in the creation of a project called Radiant Ruth. Radiant Ruth is a place of ideas, tools, and avenues to cultivate a love for all people. It can be found on Facebook and Instagram, and features book lists, products, companies, blogs, ideas and more to celebrate diversity in your home and in your community. Through Radiant Ruth, I will also be launching hand-crafted peg doll collections designed to cultivate diversity. I really desire to encourage and enable others as I continue to learn and live out my passion for diversity.
PURCHASE KRISTINE'S HANDCRAFTED RADIANT RUTH DOLLS HERE:
Kristine is a beautiful Jesus-lover, and celebrator of diversity who is sharing her passion project Radiant Ruth with the world. Kristine is wife to Pastor Jason McDowell and mom to three gorgeous kiddos.
By Jody Hurst:
Simple True/False Quiz to help you clarify your own thoughts and understand if your support or nonsupport of "take a knee" is tied to whether you agree with the message of the athlete:
a. I support NFL Players who take a knee who are protesting unfair treatment of minorities in the US. (T/F)
b. I would support NFL Players who take a knee because they are trying to send a message that their taxes are too high, and shouldn't go to social welfare programs. (T/F)
c. I would support Tim Tebow's decision to take a knee at his next game in order to honor the 45 million babies who have been killed since Roe v. Wade. (T/F)
d. I would support a player's decision to take a knee after a hypothetical President said something despicable about police, which the player felt contributed to the murder of a police officer in his home town.(T/F)
If you answered True to all four, you're being consistent. You support a player's right to protest, regardless of the cause. Good for you. You win a pretend gold star.
If you answered True to only (a), you are agreeing with the current message of unfair treatment of minorities, and not simply the right of the protest action. There's nothing inherently wrong with inconsistency, just be aware of it.
If you answered True to any of (b), (c), or (d) but false to (a), then you, too, are being inconsistent. You are disagreeing with the message of the current NFL players, and not with their method of protest.
If you answered false to all four, you are being consistent. You believe no player has a right to protest by taking a knee, regardless of the reason he does so. You also win a pretend gold star.
Body image is a hot topic among almost all social groups. If not talked about or blogged about, it is surely thought about. In a culture where image is emphasized on so many levels from fashion, to trends, to health, to weight and body types, and beyond, it’s easy to be in a perpetual state of discontentment and short-lived satisfaction. We are bombarded by all kinds of beauty possibilities…piercings, tattoos, make-up types & techniques, diet and exercises programs, supplements & pills, even surgical options to change and shift with the ever- evolving beauty standards. It’s easy to get sucked into the hype, even if the hype itself isn’t always bad, the obsession and objectifying of the hype is very destructive. It’s easy to jump on board the crazy train and allow the media, the friends, or the latest in’s & out’s of the world to define us. It’s easy to lose sight of the real authentic purpose of our bodies.
It happens to me often, always feeling that my plain-jane, stringy hair and straight figure will just never measure up no matter how I work it, feed it, dress it, adorn it, or change it. I will never look like “her”, or I will never have “her” abilities. But something, in recent years, deeply changed about the way I saw myself. As my body stretched, sagged, puffed, and wrinkled giving birth to motherhood, the way I viewed the reflection in the mirror transformed. As I carried my children within and then they bounced upon my hip & followed at my heels, my body was permanently altered in many ways. It continues to mold & change with time and age and wear and tear. And as I change, my sight has been broadened. My eyes opened a bit wider. I no longer see my body as a mere canvas to be adorned and decorated to fit some trend or standard. My body is a vessel. Each body is a vessel, a vessel to live and to love from, not to continually perfect or beautify. My mind, my heart, my hands, my feet, my whole self…stretch marks, tummy pooch, winkles, graying hair, and all were created to live to the fullest and to love to the fullest. Each vessel is unique with its own set of features and gifted in a perfectly distinct way, to love.
Love should be the motive behind our health habits, the way we eat & exercise, the way we care for ourselves, the way we dress ourselves, enabling us to love. Working out to look like someone else or to meet a standard set by someone else leads to emptiness, but exercising so you can have the energy and strength to love, fulfills & sustains. Eating right, getting that tattoo, wearing certain make-up, purchasing those clothes you feel great in…do it because you like it, but not because your life is all about making your body the latest & greatest. Treat your body as the beautiful vessel that you are.
Let your love for “them”, whoever you hold dear in your life, be the motive, not the “they” in the world that sets the ever-evolving trends. Have some fun decorating your beautifully crafted body whatever shape and size it comes in, because it’s your vessel to live and love from. Just don’t lose sight and don’t limit yourself to be a mere canvas that is always striving and yet never arriving, drown in comparison and never free to be yourself. Be a vessel, made to love, enabled to love, in its own unique ways, through each season of life.
- Kristine McDowell
Written by guest author Cassidee DeVeau
[for the homegirls]
Picture with me, that you are a flower amongst all the other wild flowers on top of a hill. Then all of a sudden the wind, rain, and billowing clouds come closing in on you. You suddenly lose sight of the sun that you were enjoying and the gentle breeze, and now you are focused on this harsh weather that seems to be coming out of nowhere. Do we ever feel like that flower that gets tossed to and fro by the winds and the storms of this life? The flower that longingly hopes it will be a sunny day, a day filled with warmth and sunshine? But instead you’re feeling overwhelmed by the storm that is coming in.
Just like this flower on top of a hill longingly hoping for the warmth of the sunshine to provide its nourishment, healing, and transformation… We as women need to be longingly in need of our Sonshine, Jesus. There will be times in our lives when the winds of discouragement, and the rains of loneliness and clouds of depression will come. But when the rain or the trials of this life may come we as women can have true joy, because of the two rays of promise that we are going to talk about tonight. So don’t focus on your feelings of loneliness, anger, bitterness, and discouragement… but focus on the Sonshine (Jesus) and His promises to us when we go through trials. He will be the One who will nourish our hearts when we are defeated, will heal us in His time, and will transform us into His likeness.
Have you been going through a storm in your life recently? Does it feel like you will never see a glimpse of the sunshine again? Do your trials rob you of your joy? Do you wonder “Why me”? Why do I have to go through this? Let’s choose today to not be held back by the storms raging around us, but to focus and follow the Son (Jesus) who brings about sunshine in our lives. We can sing in the rain in our trials by focusing on this ray of promise; that He will grow us.
KYLE LOVES TORI PHOTOGRAPHY