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  • Writer's pictureDavid Shipley

The Content of My Character

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

Written by Jenny Shipley

You know me as Jenny Shipley. My maiden name is, Jenny Jaramillo. I am Christian. I am bi-racial. People say that I am quiet and sweet. My son tells me that I am, "The best mother in the entire world." I am a small business owner. I am a teacher. I am a minister's wife. I am a daughter. I am female. I am only one person with one voice and one perspective.

I grew up in Wyoming and it is a predominately 'white' community. I had two parents who both worked. They were married for 20 years before they were divorced.

My mother's name was Hoffman and she was from German and Irish decent. My father's name is Jaramillo and his decent is a beautiful tapestry of Latino - the earliest we can trace back is to the border lands of the current South Western United States (Mexican, Spanish, and Native). They met in Wyoming after my mother had run away from her home in Pennsylvania. She ran out of money in Wyoming and so, that is where she landed.

My father's grandparents were sheep herders. They spoke Spanish as their primary language. My Grandmother Jaramillo was admitted to go to college, but ended up not being able to go because she needed to help take care of her sister because her mother had passed away and her father had to work. My grandfather spent his young adult life fighting in the United States Navy during World War 2. He was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked.

My Grandmother Jaramillo encouraged her children, in their small home, (they had 10 children, but one who passed away as a baby) to go to college. She encouraged her grandchildren to go to college. I am proud to say that my dad was one of the first ones in our family to finish college and that I also finished college.

By the time I was in high school, I felt angry at my grandparents. They did not pass on Spanish to their children. They did not pass on Spanish to their grandchildren. I was used to hearing my name pronounced wrong. Not because their pronunciation was not in Spanish, but just because it was pronounced wrong. I took Spanish classes because my grandparents did not pass it to us. I was used to people being surprised that my skin gets dark in the summer. I was used to sometimes hearing, Mexican, in a derogatory way (though not often). I was once asked if I was a "terrorist" in China by a Chinese national on a trip that I took there. I was used to fellow Latinos coming to me and speaking Spanish and while I had taken Spanish, I still had to think about what was being said. As soon as I hesitated to respond, they were able to quickly adjust and speak English. On the one hand, them coming to me felt great because unlike most people I knew, they knew my race and so they assumed I knew Spanish. These encounters, unexpectedly, felt good - it felt good to be known. I am not 100% White, but I am also not 100% Latina.

In college, I took a class called, "Diversity in Education," along side my husband who was my boyfriend at the time (we were married young y'all). It is a class that all students studying to become teachers were required to take. My professor was a woman with Native American racial makeup. She was openly very liberal. To prepare for our final project for the class, she wrote in columns the names of various racial groups as well as a column for women. The project would be graded, in part, by our classmates. We were to go to the board and choose a racial or gender group and then research that community's history in education within the United States. Our grade was based on presenting a 45 minute lesson to the class on the final project research. By the time I got up to the board to write my name to a project, there were no students yet that had written their names under the heading, "Latino," and I thought, "I've never studied this about my ethnicity before in this light. That would be interesting." And I wrote my name there. I felt excited. Myself and three others (one of them was, David) signed up in that group and we started our work together.

Near the end of the project our professor required that we meet with her to discuss our progress. I don't remember at what point - if I had to guess - it was near the end of our meeting, my professor looked at me directly, in front of my group mates, and said, "You know. You being in this group will hurt your grade because you are Latina. Your classmates will see that you are Latina and they will think that you have an advantage on this topic and they will not give you an 'A' on your project." And my gut fell to the floor. I had no reason, up until that moment to believe I was in the wrong group. There was no written, "If you're Latino, you can't be in the Latino group," or otherwise. She blatantly reminded me in that moment - she chose to look at - not the content of why I was excited to do the project, but she isolated and targeted my skin tone, my last name, and warned that I was in the wrong group and that I might be subject to a lower grade. (My classmates did not lower my grade and my three White, male group mates supported me through the entire project).

I have moved on from that moment. I don't hate her - her heritage or her beliefs. I sent a complaint to the college of Education. She was still a professor when I graduated from the school. My hope is that she at least changed her approach to that project.

I humbly say that I have not always been proud of my "great tan" in the summer and the pronouncement of my last name. I have not always been proud to say, I am bi-racial.

But you know what else happened in college?

I found Christ. I found my Lord. My relationship with Him isn't always perfect. But, I have never felt less than in my walk with Him, even though I sometimes feel imperfect. Being in Christ has not erased my past or my anything, but has given me the hope of a new future. I accept that you will not fully understand me and I certainly cannot fully understand you. I cannot speak entirely for any one group of people. Your pain and your walk are yours. But, Christ can walk with you and share with you.

There is too much to say here. I am only one person with limited influence. I want to focus on this Bible passage from Nehemiah 4: 6-16 (ERV):

We built the wall of Jerusalem all the way around the city. But it was only half as tall as it should be. We did this much because the people worked with all their heart. But Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the men from Ashdod were very angry. They heard that the people continued working on the walls of Jerusalem. They heard the people were repairing the holes in the wall. So all these men got together and made plans against Jerusalem. They planned to stir up trouble against Jerusalem. They planned to come and fight against the city.  But we prayed to our God. And we put guards on the walls to watch day and night so that we could be ready to meet them. And so at that time the people of Judah said, “The workers are becoming tired. There is too much dirt and trash in the way. We cannot continue to build the wall. And our enemies are saying, ‘Before the Jews know it or see us, we will be right there among them. We will kill them and that will stop the work.’” Then the Jews living among our enemies came and said this to us ten times, “Our enemies are all around us. They are everywhere we turn.” So I put some of the people behind the lowest places along the wall, and I put them by the holes in the wall. I put families together, with their swords, spears, and bows. After looking over everything, I stood up and spoke to the important families, the officials, and the rest of the people. I said, “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Remember the Lord, who is great and powerful! You must fight for your brothers, your sons, and your daughters! You must fight for your wives and your homes!” Then our enemies heard that we knew about their plans. They knew that God ruined their plans. So we all went back to work on the wall. Everyone went back to their own place and did their part. From that day on, half of my men worked on the wall. The other half of my men were on guard, ready with spears, shields, bows, and armor. The army officers stood behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall.

This Bible passage speaks to me right now. It draws our attention to race, work, faith, family, security, and community.

I've heard - "go and vote" - if you want change. I will and I have. I am a very proud American. I am no longer angry at my grandparents because I know that - my Grandma and Grandpa Millo put all of their energy in to raising their children to be everything they could be. For them, at that time, that meant teaching their children English. Sure, we now know that bilingualism is great. But, my grandparents might not have known that, maybe they feared racism, or maybe their focus was so laser strong to get their children to college that they just wouldn't have even second guessed their decision. I do know that my Grandpa fought for our country. So, yes - I go and vote!

Maybe you feel like you have no one to vote's another sentiment...we can do even more in repairing the holes in our wall.

Like this Bible passage draws out - we have the responsibility and God has called us to protect our family and our community. Maybe you are like the Jewish people in this story and are being persecuted. Maybe you are in the majority or the minority. God called them to pull their families together and to come together collectively to productively build up their community. They worked and they prayed.

I am tired.

I am tired of hearing that prayer isn't action. That prayer doesn't do anything.

I am tired of hearing stories of torn families. Of young men whose father's they cannot look up to or of homeless teens. That families don't feel like their children are protected. That some children aren't protected. That some children die from violence. That the foster system is over flowing. That marriage is frivolous.

I am tired of the large absence of Faith within our schools, governments, and homes.

I am tired of hearing that manliness is wrong or no longer relevant. Yep. You read that correctly. When I hear my God say, "You must fight for your wives and your homes." When I hear Him say this - I hear Him say, "Men, you have a special place on this earth and in your homes to show your family how to live a Godly life and how to physically protect them." God gave the women and children guards.

I am no longer angry at my grandparents. My parents. My past. My skin color. My last name. My past does not own me, but has helped me to be who I am today. My skin color does not own me. My parents, my grandparents do not own me. Though I have come to be grateful for all of these things - my life and my citizenship belongs to God. I will pray to Him and know that He will act. Forgiveness will reign in my life and I will work to be patient with people. I will continue to love and cherish my children and teach them how to love and cherish others as I believe God calls me to do. I will continue to support my husband (and other God fearing men) and the role that he plays in our precious family and community. I will work hard to help build up our family.

I could say it's a small part to play, but - it really isn't. If it were a small part to play, then why is it so hard to protect and why is Satan bent on destroying it? The Jewish people got tired because they worked with all of their heart on their community. It is hard to keep our minds on the Lord when we are daily flushed with reminders of the weakness and shortcomings of our life on earth. As the Jewish people realized:

There is too much dirt and trash in the way.

So, here's to the content in all of us. Our character. Who God has created us to be. Your skin is beautiful and God made it just right. Work hard to fight for your family in prayer. Pray for reform that is productive and useful for our community. If you, especially if you are in the majority, are able to talk with your fellow community members and help them to organize thoughtful reform that enriches our country - do it. Help repair our walls.

Do not be afraid AND remember our Lord. Pull God into our country. We can work through a lot of things together and move forward together, but not without God. Our country has some rough edges, but it was also founded with so much faith. We cannot continue to leave God out of our process of recovery.

There is so much contentment, passionate strength, power, and devotion in this verse from the passage above:

So we all went back to work on the wall. Everyone went back to their own place and did their part.

If you do not have a church family and do not know Christ - reach out to us, please.

Humble thoughts with Christ and may God be with our country and healing.

- Jenny

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