Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm a White Girl from Whittier and I'm #GoingThere

 I was raised in a city that is 65% Hispanic.

Growing up, my family hosted a slew of international students. I heard hushed tones of Japanese whispers sneaking out from the downstairs bedroom and boisterous bursts of Argentinian laughter booming from the corner room upstairs. College students from Taiwan and China, Finland, France, and Spain gathered around our dining room table to share food and culture and conversation.

Later we rented a spare room to an older woman from Sri Lanka. I remember liking her coffee colored skin but having a harder time with the pungent smelling leftovers she left uncovered in the fridge.

In high school I dated a Vietnamese guy whose parents weren't too keen on the fact that I was white.

There was a black girl on my basketball team and apricot was not the most common colored skin in our school.

Through the years my mom dated several men of color and my dad's second wife was Korean. I celebrated a half dozen Christmases with my three Asian American step-siblings and never minded my step-mom's special kimchi refrigerator. 

I have one niece and five nephews on two sides of my family who are half Mexican and beautiful.

I adore my boys' pediatrician who is from somewhere in the Middle East. His thick accent and foreign inflection have become comforting indicators of expertise and care.

I live in Southern California, one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the entire country.

So, I'm kind of good, right?

I've rubbed shoulders and shared meals with people who don't share my pale complexion. I'm used to hearing different languages spoken in Target and the nail salon.

I don't have a problem with race.

I honestly don't think much about it.

So, I'm kind of in the clear, yes?

Or maybe not so much.

Maybe some people I care about, some voices I respect, are starting to speak up, speak out to say that the status quo of quasi-diversity isn't "all good" after all. Maybe there's a whole lot about how God designed, how God desires the Church and Christian community to look like that people like me are completely missing.

Should I feel badly that I'm a thirty-something white female living in an upper-middle class neighborhood in a predominately white pocket of LA? No.

I am who I am, I am where I am because of God's design for my life.

But have I ever stopped to consider that the design that looks similar to mine — the same one I primarily sit next to at church and play with at the park and read online and listen to at conferences — is not the only one God made? That white is not the only hue, form, voice God cares about? Not the only story, perspective, experience I can learn from, be blessed by, or call mentor, friend, pastor, or teacher?

Of course not, I say. Surely not all the roles I respect, people I cherish in my life have to be white.

But have I ever purposed to seek out something other?

Have I ever intentioned to pursue someone unlike me for the purpose of discovering the unique value they would bring? 

Have I ever considered inviting a person with another color skin into my life for the goal of delighting in who they are and how their perspective might be rich and beautiful, necessary and crucial because of our differences?

Honestly? No.

Maybe not even once.

And this, I am awakening to, is part of the problem.

My part in the problem.

.     .      .     .      .

I scribbled down these mind whirrings, heart stirrings in my journal last week, days before the news of Michael Brown's tragic death and #Ferguson made its way into my tiny life bubble. I poured out these honest reflections rooted in deep questions after having the privilege of hearing a perspective from someone who feels "other," from someone who I viewed as "in" but opened my eyes to how horribly skewed "being in" may be.

I feel wildly inadequate to enter into this conversation. I fear that I have nothing noteworthy to share, nothing of value to add. But as I listen to others chiming in to this #GoingThere conversation, I realize that every voice is important. 

Every voice has value. That's kind of the point.

As a white woman who doesn't have a "problem" with race, I worry that I'll make things worse or sound stupid or say the wrong thing.

But what if not saying something is wrong?

What if you don't have to be a race-relations scholar or diversity expert to offer a thoughtful contribution? 

What if you don't have to be an outright racist or full-blown bigot to be a source of contention?  

What if not having all the answers or understanding all the facts or being able to own all the wrong aren't good enough excuses to keep quiet? 

What if just saying that I've been wrong, that I've excluded or discounted the rainbow of God's people, is a right place to start?

What if better actions need to trump good intentions?

With the heated debates and warring words exploding on social media right now, I feel even further disqualified to add my tiny white-girl-from-Whittier two cents. 

But God never said I had to be qualified to be obedient. He didn't say I have to be qualified to love, to speak up, to bend low, to say I'm sorry, let's do better. 

He didn't say I have to be qualified to open my hands and reach out.

So here I am. 

Hands open and outreaching. 


Related Links:
Simple Things by Deidra Riggs
On Coming Together by Alia Joy
I'm a White Girl from Rural Iowa...and I'm 'Going There' by Jennifer Dukes Lee 
I'm a white girl from the South African suburbs and I'm "going there" by Lisa-Jo Baker


Blessed to share with the Jennifer and Holley's beautiful communities.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Wild Thing God Asked Me to Do

I'm applying a second coat of concealer to mask the dark circles under my eyes -- ugly beautiful reminders of the heart bearing, soul sharing that happened in hotel hallways way past the midnight hour.

My five year old stands besides me and rifles through my bathroom drawer. He pulls out my favorite tangible treasure from the weekend. A one and a quarter inch dome of glass secured to an antique bronze textured plate, encasing an aged-looking photo of a miniature typewriter. A message has been typed on the tiny device for the pendant wearer to wield: Wild Obedience.

"Mommy, what's this?" Noah asks excitedly, holding up the gift.

"It's a special necklace I got from the conference I was at."

"Oh, Mommy, it is SO awesome! Can you wear it right now?"

I take the necklace from him and let the thin brown chain fall through my fingers. I feel the weight of the charm in my palm. Run my thumb over the smooth glass globe.

And I think, I just came back from Declare. I don't need to wear this necklace yet. It's a keepsake. A reminder. A symbol of what I learned. (Plus it doesn't even match my outfit.) Yes, I should save it for something special. Or save it for when I forget.

My brown eyed boy stares up at me, waiting to see if his mama will comply with his simple, joy-filled request. I read the tiny text again. This time it sinks in. I know the better answer.

"Yes, Noah," I say. "I'll wear it right now."

And I slip the delicate chain over my head and let the bold words rest on my chest.

Wild Obedience. 

That's why I flew 1,400 miles and shivered three days straight in freezing conference rooms. That's why I left my three small boys the last weekend of summer, the weekend right before my oldest babe starts kindergarten. For wild obedience. To walk through the door God opened. And to make space in my life and heart to ask him which doors he's preparing for me next. (And then listen for the answer.)

I touched down in Dallas ready. Ready to share life with new sisters, reconnect with acquainted believers, and squeeze tight in the flesh friends I had yet only known online. I was ready to glean wisdom from these beautiful women, soak up inspiration from every speaker, and scribble down each practical tip and heart stirring word from workshops morning, afternoon, and night.

And I was ready to hear from God. I was ready to respond to whatever he might whisper or shout. Ready to say Yes! to whatever wild thing he might ask me to obey.

Want to know what I heard? Want to know what the God of crazy faith who calls some to sacrifice their child or brave a den of lions or bear a Savior son said to me? What the God who calls some to the African bush or the front line of AIDS or the back streets of trafficking, want to know what this God of huge, impossible, life-changing calls said to me?

He said wild doesn't always mean big. 

He said obeying doesn't always mean succeeding. 

He said wild obedience doesn't always mean having something to show someone who wants to know how God showed up for you at a blogging conference.

He said wild obedience doesn't need to begin with a game-changing post or trip around the world. It needs to begin on post-conference day one. To-day. Not tomorrow or some could-be-monumental, dream-come-true, over-the-moon kind of day.

Wild obedience begins today.
So what does wild obedience look like today for this stay-at-home mom in a Southern California suburb? It looks like changing diapers and loads of laundry, running the dishwasher and after school pick up. It looks like singing nap-time songs, soothing afternoon tempers, and splashing in the backyard blowup pool when I should be fixing dinner.

Wild obedience, God whispered, is what you're already doing. 
It's cleaning up the spilled milk and asking for forgiveness when you scream.
It's choosing mud for your selfishness and soaking up every exhausting and exhilarating
moment that makes up "these days."

Wild obedience isn't trendy or tweet-worthy. It's ordinary and often dirty. Like muffin tins with gunk stuck on the rim.

You had to fly halfway across the country and pay lots of money to learn that? you may ask.


My heart needed to relearn in a deep-down-don't-dare-you-forget-it way that the wild obedience God is requiring of me today has nothing to do with the big-ideal-dreams I imagine and everything to do with the small-imperfect-reality I live. And that to Him, diffusing tantrums and scraping scrambled egg bits off the bottom of the pan can be just as courageous as writing a book or speaking to an audience of thousands.

Could God some day call me to pen a memoir or start a nonprofit? Could he open the door for me to serve in a third world country or teach in a coliseum? Yes, he could. I would be thrilled if some day he would.

But the God-surrendered, grace-filled women at Declare taught me that, more often than not, wild obedience doesn't happen out in public view where many can applaud. It happens in the private places where only One can silently see.

I walk to the kitchen and refill sippy cups with milk and stave off the pull to answer email.

My necklace taps gently against my chest with each step.

And I whisper back to God, and to myself,

Wild obedience is not for an extraordinary someday. 
It's for each ordinary everyday.

Wild obedience is not just the words I write. 
It's the message that I live.

*     *     *

Sharing my reflections with the Declare Conference link-up, as well as with my God-story sisters at Jennifer's and Holley's blogs. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beginning Again {Big Announcement!}

No, I'm not pregnant.

It's not that type of big announcement and beginning again. We are content with our three-boy crew and have no plans for birthing anymore boys (or girls for that matter...but, oooh, little girls. I love them! ...I digress.)

BUT, this big announcement I hold in my heart is a whole lot like giving birth in many ways.

There's the hopes and dreams. The prayers and preparation. The anticipation for what this new life will look like, feel like, sound like. How he will change you; how she will shape you. And amidst all the excitement and anticipation, maybe even a little longing that things would just stay the comfortable same, being scared of change.

That's how I felt before I birthed each of my boys.


And that's very much how I feel as I get ready to birth my new blog.

For the last four and a half years "Moments...from becky keife" has been my online home. In some seasons I have resided here regularly, putting my feet, my heart, my ponderings up on the proverbial sofa of frequent posts and poems. In other seasons my little corner of the Web has fallen quiet, collecting dust and cobwebs from isolation, under use.

But this past year has been an especially fond time for me here. I have loved inviting you into my beautiful mess, shining light on my amazing grace Jesus, and sorting through how it's all intertwined in the moments of my day and stirrings of my soul.

Things aren't fancy here in my green and blue blogspot abode. And yet it's been my home.

And though I love it here, know it here, have some of my sweetest memories and most painful moments stored here, I have to admit that sometimes we outgrow a home. Sometimes it's time to move and begin again.

It's that time for me.

God's been stirring this in my heart for almost a year, asking me to be patient. Trust Him. Wait.

(It feels so much like that year we were trying to get pregnant for the first time with Noah and not knowing why it took so long for this longed-for blessing to come along. It also feels a lot like that year we waited for a new home; five people busting out of our two-bedroom house seams, poor baby Jude having to nap in the bathroom.)

But by His sovereignty, the waiting is always for a purpose.   

In less than four weeks my waiting for a new online home will be over. 

I am over the moon excited to share it with you! To invite you into my new living room where we can share laughter and tears, ask tough questions and point each other to hope-filled answers. Together. I'm excited for this new space that will lend itself to easier interaction, deeper conversations. God has put things on my heart to say. But I so want to hear you back.

Things will probably get a little quiet around here in the in-between. That's what happens when you're nesting, preparing for new beginnings.

In the meantime will you consider joining me over at my new community Facebook page? This is where you'll be first to know when my new website goes live! And in the coming weeks I'll be sharing other makes-me-God-giddy announcements coming down the pike.

Click here to join me, won't you?

*     *     *

I'm four days late to the party, but I've been itching to write this post since Friday and share with Lisa-Jo Baker as she hosted her last Five Minute Friday with the word: begin.
Lisa-Jo, I have LOVED being part of your writing flash mob community. I understand how hard letting go of something so good can be. But I am excited to watch where God will lead you as you trust and make space for Him to begin a new work. 

I'm also linking up with two of my other favorite gals online, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Holley Gerth.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm Going to Declare! (And 16 Fun Facts About Me)

In October, God opened the door for me to go to a blogging conference called Allume. I came back from that long weekend in South Carolina heart overflowing, heart set on telling you about everything I had learned. Telling you by living it.

It's been a wild nine months and God has grown and stretched my faith and writing like no season before. I haven't lived it out perfectly, but day by day I trust that God is perfecting my faith --not for my glory but for His.

It was my deep desire to return to the Allume this fall, but like God often has a habit of doing in my life, he closed the door I expected...and opened another instead.

This year that door is Declare

In three days I'll hop on a plane during morning's first light to Dallas where I'll gather with women from around the world to be encouraged and equipped in following hard after Jesus in the call He's put on my life. I will continue to learn how to live out the lessons God is penning in my life. 

Declare's theme this year: Wild Obedience. I couldn't be more thrilled!

So now I'm linking up with my Declare sisters to get to know one another before the conference extravaganza begins!


1. My Man. I've been married to my husband Chris for nine years. Our first photo together was walking down the aisle...not at our wedding but at my sister's! My middle sister married Chris' best friend, so Chris was the Best Man and I was the Maid of Honor. Though he turned me down when I asked him to dance, he made up for it by asking me out five days later. We got married almost three years to the day after my sister and now Chris' best friend is his brother-in-law.

2. My Boys. We have three of the most spirited, dirt-loving little boys the Good Lord ever made: Noah (5), Elias (4), and Jude (2). Though I never asked God to give me three sons in just three and a half years, His plans are always better than any I could write or dream. I wouldn't trade any rowdy, wrestling, stinky, adventuring moment with them for the world.

3. Culture Shock. I grew up with mostly just my single mom as the youngest of three daughters. Though I was a tomboy when I was little, I still find myself in complete culture shock at times over this house full of boys I now call home. Fart humor. Constant climbing. Light sabers and dragon duels. I live in a world of sweaty necks and dirty fingernails. I'm not a prissy girl but I'll be getting a manicure before Declare and enjoying every feminine minute with my writing sisters!

4. California Girl. I was born in Arizona but have lived in California almost by entire life. I rarely have a tan and I've never surfed, but the mild weather and sunny skies are delights I wouldn't easily trade. Yet, sometimes my husband and I dream about what it would be like to trade this life of crowded LA freeways and sky-high cost of living for wide open spaces where our boys could roam wild and free. Only time will tell if God leads me to be a California girl forever.


1. Special Orderer. I special order. Everything. (So does my man.) It's not so much that I'm picky. I just like what I want and want what I like. Okay, I'm a little picky. If we went to lunch at say, Pei Wei, and I ordered a Teriyaki Chicken Bowl, it'd go something like this: No Cabbage, Add Broccoli, Onions Well Done, No Sesame Seeds, Easy Sauce, Brown Rice. Sounds delicious, right?

2. Recovering Stutterer. When I was in fourth grade I had a horrible stutter. I, I, I, couldn't t-t-t-talk w-w-w-without stuttering. When I wasn't stuttering I was jabbering a mile-a-minute. My mom used to tell me that I stuttered because my mind was on hyper drive and my mouth just couldn't always keep up. Kids at school made fun of me, but I think God had my back because the teasing never deeply bothered me. But what does bother me is that sometimes still as a grown woman, when I get really excited or my mind is on overload, my words get twisted and my fourth grade stutter rears its ugly head. It's like I suddenly become that awkward ten year old with greasy bangs and a bionator.

3. Multiple Sneezer. I always sneeze in multiples, usually in threes, and sound like a tiny mouse. I'm not trying to hold it in, honest. That's just the way it sounds. (My husband on the other hand sounds like he's trying to blow down the house.) In Junior High my best friend Emily would count every time I started to sneeze. My record: An impressive 17 times in a row!

4. Paradoxical Preferencer. I love vineyards, but I don't like wine. I love dessert, but I don't like cake. I love Mexican food, but I don't like tomatoes or cilantro. I love paradoxes, but I don't like irony.


1. Since Second Grade. I've known since I was a freckled nose second grader that I wanted to be a writer. Words have always been magical to me. Full life, dreams, and possibilities.

2. During College. My love for language and the power of words propelled me into choosing a college with a Creative Writing Major. I wanted to be a children's book author and crafted my own independent study course toward that end since that specific focus wasn't offered.

3. As a Young Mom. I didn't step into adulthood as a world renowned children's writer. I spent years doing medical billing and then landed a great job as an editor for a university marketing department. But my soul burning, soul stirring need to write never died. After I had my first son and stepped away from the full-time workforce, I started this little blogspot to give a voice to all the words still churning. But now I didn't write words for kids. I wrote words for their mamas.

4. One Significant Year. The last year has been the most significant in my journey as a writer and blogger. I've discovered that this is more than a passion. It's my calling. Using Words to give thanks to the Lord and tell of all His wonders (Psalm 9:1) is what makes me come alive. It's the way Jesus speaks to my heart and at times uses me to speak to others. This year I have written more about living thanks, growing faith, and embracing motherhood than my prior three and a half years of blogging combined. It is the delight of my heart. And I trust the journey has just begun.


1. Hiking with My Guys. Most weekends you can find me and my guys tromping the shady trails in our local foothills or trekking through a nearby state park. We call these our Adventures. I love being out in nature and watching my little men explore and enjoy God's creation.

2. Coffee with My Friends. Filled with ice or swirling out steam, I love my coffee with Italian Sweet Cream. And I love even more to share it with a friend while sharing our hearts. Crying together, laughing together, unloading our burdens and uplifting our prayers. Together.

3. Back Porch with My Jesus. My favorite time of day is my time alone with God. Usually it's when my boys are napping and my coffee is brewing. I sneak out on my back porch, turn on the soothing fountain, prop up my feet, exhale all my worries and inhale God's sweet, amazing grace. Reading His Word and giving thanks. 

4. Taking a nap, eating ice-cream, and watching Chopped. Okay, that's three, but it's fun to end with a little extra randomness. 

And that's a wrap. 

If you're a Declare sister reading this, I can't wait to meet you! 

If you're a friend or faithful reader, would you consider praying for me on my Declare journey? 

I'm wildly expectant that God has a plan and a purpose for me (for each of us) going to Declare. I can't wait to savor each moment, soak up each lesson, and come back ready to share and live out the message He lays on my heart.