For the next year, Cokesbury Kids will be releasing chapters of my book Raising Good People for free through the Cokesbury Kids Club. Each month, the members of the group will get access to a chapter a month. This month the introduction will release. Leading up to its release, I am going to post some “get to know me” posts here on my site. They will post on Mondays. On Tuesdays, I will go LIVE to talk more about the post.
One of the things people often say is, “Wherever you go, there you are.” This is true when you’re in ministry. This is true when you are reading the Bible. And it’s also true when you are raising a child. As I write Raising Good People, I am continually remembering that my history, my experiences, do affect what sorts of things I see, know, question, and believe. In order to understand my perspective, it’s helpful for you to know more about my foundation—my childhood.
I am the oldest of five children. All of the stereotypes of oldest children apply to me. I take charge, I am a perfectionist (though recovery has helped me let go of this some), and I am ambitious. I helped raise my siblings, particularly the youngest two since they are 11 and 14 years younger than I am. Before they were born, it was me and my two brothers. We moved around a lot and that solidified our bonds of friendship. I have lovely memories of playing house and pretending to go to McDonald’s, choreographing ballets for us to perform for my parents, and climbing the tree in the front yard at the duplex we rented on Ptarmigan in Austin, TX.
I also have memories that aren’t so lovely. Like right after we moved to Houston, I was 4, and our car got repossessed in the middle of the night. I got upset because someone was stealing our car and we couldn’t do anything about it. I also remember when we were in Houston how sometimes the water went brown in the tub because we were in a poor part of the city and people don’t care if poor people have access to clean water. I remember worrying about money and food and safety a lot when I was growing up.
My parents did their very best to raise all of us to be loving people who worked hard. They did everything they could to make sure we always had what we needed and most of the time they found ways to get us what we wanted. I am very grateful for the ways they show up for me and for the love they give to me. I see how hard it is be a parent and how hard they tried to always do what they thought was best. I can also see how much they have grown and that means so much to me now as I stare down my parenting journey and think, “How do we not screw this perfect kid up?”
I grew up going to church. We attended several United Methodist churches and I loved talking about theology with my dad. I always felt safe and seen at church. Because I was seen, people saw gifts for ministry in me. I was encouraged to pursue that call and I did. I went to undergrad at a UM university and I went to seminary. Those things wouldn’t have happened without my local congregation investing in me.
Beside church, I loved reading and dancing and school. I was a straight A student and graduated as a valedictorian. I wanted to be a prima ballerina, but I messed up my knees in 8th grade. When I began imagining a different future for myself, I was loving caring for my then 3-year-old sibling and my then infant brother. Being with children always came easy and I thought I would be a preschool teacher. When I felt called to ministry, it made sense to me that God would use all of these areas of my life to be in ministry with children—particularly those who are marginalized due to poverty.
I am aware of the ways my life was affected by white privilege despite growing up poor. During my teens, my parents were able to move us to the suburbs of Austin and then to a nice home in rural Oklahoma. Michael and I are solidly middle class. This is not the normal generational wealth accumulation for my BIPOC friends. My commitment to keeping the door open so all humans have the ability to live without worrying how they will pay for food and housing is rooted in my experiences of childhood and the times I watched my parents worry about these things. I believe that when the church is at its best and is doing the work of Christ like it should, we can ensure that the system is changed and all humans can have the life abundant written about in Scripture. As a resource creator, I do my very best to make sure the theology of my books and curricula are also rooted in these truths.