Together by AGCI is a brand new podcast from the creative team at All God’s Children International.


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Episode 74

A Door Made for Me

Tyler Merritt, author of children’s book, “A Door Made For Me”

Welcome to Together by AGCI. I’m Marisa Butterworth.

I am incredibly honored to have been able to chat with our guest today. He is a Nashville-based actor, comedian, vocalist, and the author of two books that you need to own. I take my Coffee Black and A Door Made for Me. He is also talented. He is super smart. He loves Jesus, and he is an advocate for the most vulnerable people. And most importantly, he’s my friend. His name is Tyler Merritt. He would never, ever say so, but Tyler is kind of a big deal these days, and he has made a name for himself. And when I reached out and asked if he would be willing to maybe think about joining me on this podcast, I honestly thought that there would be no way that he could make it happen, because he is really, really busy. But he made time for us to chat, and I am so honored that you are making time to listen to all that he has to share. I promise you it’s worth it.

Well, hello Tyler. Thank you so much for joining me today on this. So awesome. It’s so fun to have you here. I know I’ve said this to you before, but I so appreciate that you had joined me on here to talk about your book. I met you. We, we, we both have different stories of like when we remember meeting each other. Right.

And I mean, for me, I, I met you back when we lived in Nashville, like two thousands sometime in there. It’s been a long time. It doesn’t seem that long ago. And you were a musician. My husband was a musician. And so, our paths crossed, and I remember that we would talk on the phone because I worked for a management company and you would call looking for the person who was the manager. And you got me right. And so, right. I remember chatting with you that way. How do you remember it? That seems like a whole other lifetime ago. It was like, right. And what’s funny is, is that I, back then, I, I don’t think it all occurred to me, I don’t think it all really occurred to me that you or Jesse’s wife working for the management company. Totally. And so, I don’t, whenever I ended up putting you and Jesse together is when I, when I think, when I think about meeting you kind of for the first time, but I do remember it was a long, long time ago and I was a huge fan of your husband’s band, daily planning. Like I was, I absolutely loved. I mean, I still love Jesse. How dope is that dude? I do. But yeah, we go way, we go way back, way, way back.

I mean, so it’s been fun, but because we’ve been friends and I mean, we’ve really been connected like on Facebook, so it’s like a comment here or there, nothing crazy. But because we were friends, I saw that you were releasing a children’s book. I had already bought and listened to your past book, which is I take my coffee black, and I don’t know. So, for me, because Jesse’s a creator, I obviously love to support and buy whatever my friends are creating to because it means a lot. I don’t know, on our end. It’s like when someone supports you in that way, it means a lot. And so, I heard you were releasing the children’s book. I pre-ordered it. I had, you know, some kind of idea that it was maybe based on your story, but I don’t even know if that was real or I just, you know, made that up in my head. But I received the book in the mail. It was a surprise because I forgot I had pre-ordered it. I I got it. I cracked it open, was like, oh my gosh, so fun. Took it up to my office to where I am now. Cracked it open, read it. And five minutes later I literally was in a puddle. I had been crying. I, I even like read the back of it, like the last page where you have like an author’s note, a note from the author.

But here I’ll show this book. Anyone that’s looking can, can you see it? It’s A Door Made for Me by my friend Tyler Merritt. And it is beautiful. And I didn’t expect to cry. It’s poignant. And it is a book that I’ve now shared with my daughter, my family. I tell people about it. So, for you to be on here, I’m your biggest fan. I think I’ve told you that too, just to be extra crazy. But I just, it really means so much that you join and talk about your story and share with all of our listeners. Well, first let me say thank you for buying my kids’ book. Thank you for l listening or, and reading. I take my coffee black too. Like I did both. I would say listen to it because, oh my gosh, it was so much fun to actually like, hear you doing it and like yeah. Reenacting things. I don’t know. I, I’m a list. I love listening to audiobooks that are read by the author. So, if anyone’s out there like, hmm. I’d say buy it and listen to it. We, we tried to make the audiobook. I take my coffee black, really special. Have you heard the audiobook yet? For a Door Meet for me? No, I haven’t. Did you not know that I had one? I didn’t, I didn’t know. I cannot believe that. I didn’t even think of it. I can’t believe I didn’t tell you this.

You will. Okay then I’ll really ball the Adore Me for me audiobook, in fact, school Library Journal just put out a review of the audiobook and they gave it a stard review. And when I was, when, so I didn’t, when I came into publishing, I didn’t understand how reviews, like stars totally worked in publishing. Yep. Cause I’m from a music background, right. So to me, the more stars, the more mics the better. So I take my coffee Black also got a star review, and I remember my publicist calling me and I was like, I, they only gave us one star. Like, I don’t know. Hilarious. Yeah. That doesn’t sound good. I would be like panicking. But it’s different. It’s, it’s different in publishing. They were like, no, if you get a star, it’s a big deal. And so just recently someone sent me a screenshot and the school library journal had given the audiobook for A Door Made for Me a started view. And it’s pretty special. I cannot wait for you to listen to it after we get off. I, well now I, that’s what I’m doing next. Apparently I’m listening. Well, I’m so excited. It’s, it’s like I said, the book is entitled to door, fate made for me. I can’t even talk. I’m so excited. Why did you end up, this is your story.

Why did you end up deciding to write it in this format for kids, for adults, whatever it looks like? So when I was thinking about writing a kid’s book, originally I had a lot of different ideas, right? Like I, there were kind of, there were so many avenues that I could go down and I, I I, being a creative, I, I started creating these characters and all of these things. And I knew I was gonna write a kid’s book. So I, I, I had draw drew up. I, I think I had read almost every kid’s book. I’d get my hands on. Hands on. Yeah. And every time that I started to go into like a direction of an idea of creating like kind of a fictitious world or a, or a kind of story that may not be true, but might still connect to kids, I kept coming back to my own personal story. And so I, I really just pulled one of the stories out of, I take my coffee black and put it into like a kid’s version and A Door Made for Me. And once I began doing that, which was basically just retelling a story that I knew so well, I, I found that I was super attached to it.

And what I find with writing with anything, whether it’s songwriting or whether it’s writing of the book, is that if I can connect myself to it in a way that feels true, honest, genuine, and meaningful, then the audience is gonna feel that same way. And surprisingly, A Door Made for Me, ended up having levels to it that I just didn’t imagine were gonna come through. Yes. People that reach out to me about it, although it was about me and my discovery of kind of my blackness being a problem for some people, the acceptance piece of this book, the part of loving yourself for who you are, is a universal thing that we all need to hear. And the responses that I get from so many people based on that specific topic means the world to me. I love it. And we all struggle with that. I think that is a piece of why I was crying for sure. Because I mean, if you’re listening, if you’ve ever listened, you know, probably that my daughter is Ethiopian and she’s black. It’s, it’s a journey that it, for me of empowering her and, and helping her to do well in the world that we live in. And that this book, it tapped into all the stuff that I’ve seen her struggle with as a, a young black girl who’s turning in, she’ll be a, she’s a preteen, she’s gonna turn into a beautiful black woman.

And, and I wanna give her, I wanna at least have her know that even though I don’t have the shared experience necessarily in all of this Sure. That I see her, that I believe her, that I can be someone she talks to and I’m be an advocate as well. Yeah. When she does experience this and she has experienced this, you know, people not loving her blackness. Right. I I it’s, and not accepting her so that it tapped into that and then it tapped into Yeah. Identity it tapped into Yeah. Who we are as people. There’s a part i i you give Second chance, but it’s hard. You talk about how, how it, it’s a real assessment of our world and, and it’s interesting. I think kids books are so brilliant and this, this book nailed it because, you know, you talked about this story and I take my coffee black, but it, kids’ books force you to be eloquent and, and they make it so that like every word counts because you only have so many before you lose them. And so it was just like perfectly, the story was just woven so perfectly and beautifully to capture all of that. And so I’m just so proud of you and I’m so glad that you wrote this story because it is powerful and is already making a difference. I, I appreciate that and for a coup for a couple of reasons.

But I, I, I wanted to note that it was important to me in this book that the illustrations we presented a dark-skinned black boy. Yes. Because I’m a dark-skinned black boy and I go deeper in my adult book about some of the struggles I had as a young kid being dark-skinned and how easy that was for kids to make fun of or to talk about. Hmm. But it was really important for me in this book to make sure that the kid who represents me in the book had dark skin as well. Not only so that dark-skinned kids could see themselves in it Yeah. But to continue to normalize the beauty of all of our skin tones. Yes. Good. I love that. And that’s, that’s something we’d always get to do. No, no. And I mean obviously representation is huge and all of that kind of stuff, but it goes, I love that it went deeper and that you wanted to make sure that, that this color was represented as well. Like, and he is, he’s, he’s just your perfect color and, and your illustrator is did a beautiful job. I, Lonnie Lonnie, Lonnie Oliver. I’ll tell you, I, when I went seeking out an illustrator and I saw him some of his early drawings and I, we sought him out. Okay. What was great, what’s, what was great about it is we’re both huge Kobe Bryant fans locked Oh really? That far? Yeah.

And I saw a picture that he had drew of a young kid with a Kobe Bryant poster in the back. And I saw this picture and I was like, oh my gosh, I feel like I’m this kid in this picture. And I thought, I, I feel like this guy could draw me. He could draw my heart and communicate that. Yep. And there’s a little nod in the book if you get it and people read it. There’s a little nod in the book where I’m wearing like a Kobe Bryant jersey. It’s like a la like I didn’t even notice it, but I wouldn’t, I’m like so behind on all of that. But I love that. Now I’m, there’s a little nod in there. Yeah. The him and I both kind of agreed on. I love that. And it’s, and if you know it, you just automatically pick up on it. You’re like, okay. Yes. You see? Yeah. Oh, I see it now. See, I wouldn’t have even known that his number was 24. See, this is, my kids would be ashamed of me right now, but we won’t. They would, they don’t listen to this, thankfully. So they’ll never know. There’s, I’ll tell you, I put little things in there. I love that. Just same way with my book, like my adult book.

I put jokes in there that I feel like very small people, very few people will know or, or kind of lean towards my own things. I used to have a pet rabbit here in Nashville. Okay. His name was Kid, so it’s doesn’t matter, it’s not really important. But in the book there’s a, there’s a rabbit in the book. Aww. And so I ask kids after they read it, I’m like, did you see the Rabbit in the book? And some kids are like, oh my gosh, you completely know it. Some kids are like, I didn’t notice at all. I’ll go back and through it and be like, here’s a rabbit right here. And plain sight. And I didn’t see the first spot and I didn’t even notice. I love it. All the little sneaker things. Well that’s what’s fun about writing a book or songs or anything. Yeah. You can, yeah. You can put all that in. Well, will you give us a little synopsis of the book and, and tell everybody without, I mean, I don’t wanna say there’s spoilers, but without, you know, anything, but just kind of tell everybody what it’s about. Sure. It’s a, it’s a true story. And I added in some, some elements, some just kind of universal elements as I tell the whole story cuz it, I had to translate it over into kind of kids speak. Yeah.

But it’s a story about when I was a kid, kid and my mother took me to, took me out of town for the summer to go visit some friends. Really in the adult book we talk about going and visiting some friends of mine. So I translated her in the kids book where we go and visit my grandparents and I meet a young boy named Jack, a little white kid named Jack and him and I hit it off and we become friends pretty quickly. He teaches me how to fish and one day we catch a ton of fish and he wants to go and show all of his friends in the town Oh. The fish that we caught. And this begins our journey of kind of going house to house and inviting his ki his friends to come out and meeting some of their parents. And the experience that happens when we begin to go door to door, where in Jack’s normal life, he’s just, you know, himself is a white kid in a pretty much pretty white part of town in that country town just going up to doors and just saying, Hey. And he’s never experienced taking me a young black boy with him. And the whole experience takes place from there. I think what the reader needs to know before they dive into it is that I think that we need to be truthful with our kids and honest with our kids.

And so I made it pretty clear that not only was it hard for me to walk through this experience, but it, that it didn’t resolve really Peachy didn’t resolve No. Like with a big bow. That’s not a bow. Yeah. That’s what I think is so, it hits you so hard. It isn’t just like a fairytale ending of like, and then everything was fine and Jack and I ended up being, you know, the closest of friends. It, it, it isn’t and I love that you did that. Yeah. And so I, I wanted to make sure that I incorporated a little bit of history in it and a little bit of letting the reader and the child know that this filling wasn’t new. That a young black boy discovering his blackness and that it was gonna be hard for some people wasn’t new. So my grandmother and grandfather are in the book and you get a little bit of a taste of my grandfather have gone have, he had gone through some of these same things before. Yeah. But now him and his wisdom, he figured out words to speak to me and to kind of get me through it. And it’s in those words, in that comforting, in that love, in that recognition of everything’s not always easy. That I think there’s a common ground that we all end up experiencing through his words. Yes. Yeah. It’s definitely a shared experience.

But his words were so powerful and, and we’ll talk about that here in another few minutes, but Yeah, he, whether it was really your grandfather that said that, I’m not sure or not at some point in your life. So it was cuz I’m like, can he be my grandpa? Can, can I have someone in my life that was, that that took their, what I’m assuming was painful Yeah. And turned it into something beautiful. There was a culmination of you, you speak about your daughter and I get even emotional thinking about it. She walks, she, she, her, her road is different. Her road is different as a black woman in America, as a young black girl in America. And she needs to have voices that, that feed into some of the struggle that she’s gonna walk through to let her know that she’s perfect just the way that she is. Yes. That she is loved just the way that she is. And hear me, I’m not saying that some people need to hear that more than others. What I’m really saying is, is that sometimes hearing those words come from someone that looks like you Yes. That has been through some of your shared same experiences, really can turn a page in your life for the better. Yep. Oh, I agree. Yeah.

And that’s what I think by Balded and why I hope for this and more voices like this and why we try to, you know, as, as white family with the last name of Butterworth, like whitest of the white it, I mean, it’s a joke, but it’s not like we’re a very white family. Yeah. Yeah. That she, it’s so important that she had that she sees people and the, the hard thing has been realizing for me on my end of like how hard it is. Like not just rep representation within media, but how hard it is to find representation in anything for her. Like I, like a black pediatrician, can’t find her a female black pediatrician not in our area. Right. Coun a a black counselor, female counselor. Not in our area. Yeah. Like people that are in her everyday path. A teacher, you know, that, that don’t look like her. Right. It, you don’t, I’d never thought about it before. I wish I had, I’m ashamed that I hadn’t, but here I am now in this present time and I’m, I mean, this is what I realized there isn’t, when people talk about representation, it’s no joke. It’s not like, oh, they’re, you know, surely they’ll find someone. It’s, it’s a real thing.

And, and I mean at this point in her life, she thinks she’s gorgeous and beautiful and part of that’s been because we speak that into her, her brother speak that into her and literally everyone that she meets tells her how gorgeous she is. So she’s like, she’s humble about it, but she knows, yeah. She knows she’s beautiful and, and smart and all of these things, but as she’s getting older, the people don’t pe she’s encountering people that don’t have that response to her. Yeah. Yeah. And she’s got questions. I’m, I was like, gosh, they, they didn’t seem like they liked me or they, this happened to me. And, you know, it’s a lot of talking through what that looks like and, and this book gives her permission to talk through those things because it, it makes it like, oh, this is real. I’m not the first person that’s gone through this even though my parents didn’t go through this themselves. That’s right. And it’s, it’s hard for her. It’s hard for us, obviously, but it’s, that’s hard. So this, this, it’s just a little treasure trove of experience and, and with that, like what about this experience still impacts you today? I know like it was emotional to write this book. How come? Like what did that, I have my guesses, but I’d love to hear it from you. Yeah.

Well let me, let me go back and say something about you realizing some of the common things like finding a therapist or, or all of those things. One of the reasons why I have dreadlocks to this day is cuz when I went to Santa Cruz, California for college, which I talked about and I take my coffee black, there just weren’t that many black people and I couldn’t find black hair products there. Really? And so it’s something that you don’t think about. Yes, yes. You don’t think about that at all. You don’t, you don’t think about it. But I, there was a Kmart in my little town of Scotts Valley and I went there the very first day trying to find black hair products. And I was like, there’s nothing, like, there’s no, there’s no black, there’s no, oh. And I know that Kmart, I have been to that one and there’s probably still no black hair care products or Right. Skincare, anything. Oh yeah, a hundred percent. Yeah. And so it’s things that you don’t think about until you’re, you’re kind of forced to go wait, there’s, you know, your daughter or black folks are living in kind of a different world sometimes that we kind of have to figure out how to go. And so for me, dreadlocks were easy cuz I could go a while without having to do anything to them. Yeah.

And you know, I you just kind of find a ways, find ways to adapt. Now how, I’ll tell you how A Door Made for Me still how it affects me today. There are two really big things I’ll tell you the first, the, the, the part that affects me that’s, that’s challenging is that I’m realizing the story that I told as a child that I discovered as a child is still happening today. Yeah. Where there are still moments where people will see me in all of my beautiful blackness. And if they don’t know me, their initial reaction is to either shut a door, turn away, walk away, go into a different direction, and whether it’s their built in fears and biases or, or whatever it is that, that hasn’t changed. But I’ll tell you something that’s been beautiful, Marisa is, especially because of cuz of my adult, because if I take my coffee black, I get messages all the time, letters from people that say I’ve had a heart shift. Hmm. Now that I’ve been in this, now that I’ve walked through this book with you, like my heart has literally shifted. Wow.

And so now when I see someone who, who’s different looking than I am, I be, the first thing I begin to think of is I wonder if they’re on their way to go talk to their mother or I wonder if they maybe like the same music that I do, or if they don’t, I wonder what kind of music do they like? Are they readers? Are they, so it allowed, if people talk to me about how it has allowed them to open their mind, the thoughts of even though someone is different than me and that’s okay and looks different than me, and that’s okay. Their difference is beautiful. Yes. And that’s something that, that’s been pulled outta the book. The other thing that is, that is super high impact for me, that is probably one of the most moving things for me and chokes me up even today, is there’s a part in the book where my grandpa says, he basically says, Hey, make sure that you open doors for the next kid that’s trying to come through. Yes. And when I read that out loud to an audience for the first time I broke down because it occurred to me that that’s what I spent the rest of my life doing. I’ve committed my life to making sure that the next person who walks through a door, I’m there to open that for them being welcoming to them on the other side.

Like that experience kind of shifted my life into making that kind of a life calling for me. And it’s funny as I, as I look back, I think about how many times I had people pour into my life and saying, Tyler, sure this is about you, but it’s also about all those other people that need to walk through doors for the first time. Yep. How are you Tyler going to help these individuals walk to the door and realize that they are gonna be okay. Yeah. And I’ve committed my life to that now and that’s what I, what I, that’s what I feel when I read that book and how it still affects me today. I love it. And what a crazy legacy for your grandfather to have Yeah. Gifted you and left you that idea instead of, I mean, he could have very easily and rightfully so, taken it on a negative end Sure. As well. And taken it somewhere else. It shows that he did some of the work himself and he passed on that, that mindset to you. And it’s just, it’s, it’s powerful. Yes. Like you say, for wherever you are that you’re, who do you wanna be? Do you wanna, you know, be someone that, or that never finds their door that Yeah.

And or, and past that, you know, that they close it behind them or, you know, do you wanna be the person that opens that door and holds it open for everyone else? And that’s what I, I mean that’s, it hits so hard in, in your book. Yeah. There’s a moment too where I feel like we’re giving away all the book, but it’s a kid book, cigar read it, but you say don’t have to get it for their kids. Yeah. You still have to get it for your kids. There’s a moment where grandpa, in all of his wisdom, which is just wisdom pulled from so many people in my life, he, he understands that I’m so hurt that I don’t have, I at that age didn’t have the kind of grace and or patience yet to realize that Jack May come around one day. Yeah. And so he encourages me and says, Hey, Jack is still learning. Yes. And if you hold out for him, it’s okay to be hurt, but know that there’s people out there that are still learning and they can come around basically saying, Tyler, there’s hope there, Tyler, there’s hope there. And that’s what I wanna encourage everybody who’s listening to this podcast. I, as a black man in America, I do not have the privilege to just give up hope. I just don’t.

And so no matter how difficult it gets, no matter how crazy it may seem, no matter how endless our battles may feel, I’m going to always hold on to hope and I hope to pour that into all of the young people that come behind me, you know? Yep. And that’s what this does. I mean that’s, and you know, the parents that are watching this too bec or watching or listening, you know, because it does, you know, we’re all on our journeys too, of what that looks like. And Yeah. It, it changes things, those words and hope, you know, it it, if you didn’t have it, I don’t know what we, what our world would look like, but Right. I’m hopeful too. I’m joining you of being hopeful too. Choosing to, to be that when there are times where, you know, it doesn’t feel very hopeful. We’ve definitely, we’ve been through it as a country and, and so this book is beautiful in that you, your grandfather and I’m, I won’t even be able to quote it now. He talks about, or I think you said like in this situation, how can she hate me when she doesn’t even know me? And that hit me really hard because that’s something that Harper said to me, like, how can this person hate me when they don’t even know me?

And so yeah, just like your grandfather validated your experience, which I think we can take notes from as parents here and, and friends and loved ones validate experience and, and your feelings of anger and sadness. And I think so often we are afraid of anger. We’re afraid of being sad or letting that emotion happen. We’re afraid of being mad. So he didn’t take that away from you of like, calm down, it’s okay. He let you sit in that and Yeah. Because it’s wrong. What happened to you? And I loved that, that he did that. And then, you know, like we just talked about, he, he also moved you into that next place of being hopeful for Jack that, you know, maybe he could come along and, and come around and, and be better too. That he would learn something of that. And he was a little boy. So it, it’s, you know, it gives that permission, but it doesn’t make it right. You know, either. And I just like that you kind of, you kind of, you hit all of those things, all of those points, all in this little tiny part. That’s why I’m like, how did he do this? Right? It’s, it’s how did he hit all of these points? The layers. Yeah. They’re, it’s layered and that’s exactly it. Yes.

And, and, and, and I’ll be honest, like myself and my editor, who I had a fantastic editor for this book, we would just go over and over and over again going, what’s a better way to say this? Or how can we like, have a double entendre, you know what I mean? Or like, what can we do here that says many things with very few words that some people may completely get. Like kids are gonna read through it and they’re gonna get the general like picture. Yep. Right. They’re gonna go, here’s something bad that happens. This makes me feel a certain way that wasn’t good. I made you feel a little bit angry that this happened and how can I come out of it. Right. But parents that are reading it, they’re gonna go way in a minute here. There’s a lot of elements that are happening here. There is a young, a young white boy who’s having to walk through his own experience and learns his own story in this. So there’s something that’s sad that’s in that piece a little bit. There’s the grandfather who’s having to kind of have a little bit of P T s D, like totally. He’s watching something happen that he, he’s seen a hundred times and now it’s happening to his offspring. Yeah.

There’s, there’s the grandmother who is a part of this story, but there’s this weird unspoken piece of Go ahead honey, you handle this one that’s happening there. Yeah. You know, there’s a great visual in the book too, where the Tyler character is just kind of leaning up against grandpa, you know, and there’s all of these pieces of, of just building and growing and, and changing and shifting. And that li that piece in there where it talks about how can she hate me when she doesn’t know me. The, the thing that’s spoken here that has to be read into is Tyler, at this point in the story, has found the ability to love himself. Hmm. He has found the ability to, similar to your daughter, she has had supportive things in her life to tell her that she’s okay, that, that she’s valuable. So she’s able to ask the question like, Tyler is in the book right then of going, I feel like I’m good. Yeah. Like, I, I feel like I’m good. Why? Why can she not see that? And she doesn’t, she hasn’t even gotten the opportunity to, to discover if I’m good. Exactly. Why is she leaning to thinking that I’m bad? That you’re bad first. Yes. First. Yeah. And why would I, I mean that’s the like, interesting part of like her, her brokenness of, you know, that she went there first. I think especially with that kid.

Like, it just, every time I’m like, golly, like, how messed up are we all? And, and, and I’ve, I feel like I’ve been that messed up person before too. Like in all honesty talking about it of like, I’m on this journey too. I never thought of myself as struggling with any of that. I always thought, oh gosh, I’m friends with anybo and anybody and everybody and you know, after we brought Baby Harper home, that was my first like realization of, oh gosh, like I am that person to you as, as much as she, you know, I read about her and my first reaction is always like, oh gosh. It’s like with anything like, gosh, like you hear you, you hear a sermon on Sunday and you think of the person next to you, but then you realize like, oh crap, this is for me. This is, this is for me. And I had that like kind of reaction too of like, oh crap, this is for me. I, I do this to you. And I’ve made these assumptions about people too. And, and so it’s a challenge as well, at least, at least for me, of, of being better and look and looking at people differently. And it’s, it’s a, it was a beautiful challenge, not like a shaming challenge. So I appreciate that. Cuz I get into shaming stuff too. I shame myself. I’m sure enough.

But yeah, I just of like, you can look at it and be like, oh, that gal, she’s just so far off. And, and it may have looked different in my life, but I know for sure that it’s been me too, that I’ve judged someone or looked at them or haven’t, haven’t taken the time like you’re talking about like, gosh, what music do they listen to? Do they love to read? Do they, you know, what, what do they do for work? What are, what are their passions and hobbies that you just, it it’s, it’s the magic when it moves from just someone that you see to someone that you dialogue with and see suddenly like their humanness and the beauty of that. So you were talking about your grandfather and I love the, the like imagery of when you were like leaning up against him and he’s like this pillar for you of someone who can speak that truth into your life. I hope to be that for my daughter, but again, like I’ve mentioned, obviously I’m white and it looks different and you talk about your grandpa with like his PTs d of like he’s lived this himself and how painful it is to then also this many years later see your grandson going through it. Yeah. Like how can, how can I as an adopted mom be an appropriate pillar?

You know, obviously not having the sh the shared experience, but the acknowledgement that the experience is real. What can I be doing to, to do that? Well, first, first, first, lemme say this, I’m gonna speak this to you directly, Marisa, you need to know that you, you are qualified to do all of the things that you so hope that you’re doing when you say, I hope to be able to do that, you are doing that. That’s ex thank you. And that’s, that’s exactly, that’s exactly. Well Doc Tyler, now you’re gonna make me cry on this. I’m like, Ooh, man, do you do that when you’re gonna cry? That’s my whole point Tyler making girls crisis. But really though, thank you. You’re always going to be beautiful to your daughter. You’re always going to be, Hmm. Always. But the reality is when she looks through her eyes, she doesn’t see somebody that looks like her, that doesn’t take any away from you, anything away from you at all. That doesn’t mean that you’re less than, it doesn’t mean that you were wrong by not having somebody immediately in front of her that she saw beautiful. That means that you are beautiful, you are what she sees. You have given her that hope, love, grace, all of those things that have turned her into an absolutely beautiful person.

But also in that same breath, you have have the ability to make sure that she’s surrounded by other individuals Yeah. That look like her, that can give her that same hope. Yeah. So it’s the boat band. I love that. Like, you can have, it’s what I, I always say the same thing, but when it comes to myself, when it comes to our personal story, it’s harder. You know, it’s like I believe that for everyone else. And then for me it’s my struggle. And I know other adoptive parents struggles too, because most adoptive parents that I know want to do their best for their child and acknowledge the trauma that they’re experiencing, you know, all at the same time the trauma of what brought them to be an adoptee, the trauma of being in a family that doesn’t look like them and, and, and the trauma of not being in their home culture and country. I mean, it, the list goes on and on, on, on and on. And so it’s, it’s obviously as I was crying, like it’s, it’s affirming to hear and be reminded that both of those things can exist at the same time.

And that we are capable as adoptive parents of providing some of that for our children and then providing all of it, whether it be from us or from someone else, you know, and just surrounding your kids with people that look like them and have shared experiences Ha you know, pieces of their cultural, I can’t even say a cultural identity. Yeah. You know, I love that, that, thank you for that. I know that was a special word for me, but I think it’ll translate to everybody else too, that we are all walking our own journeys with this. Yeah. And let me be clear, this isn’t the first time that I’ve had that thought. I, I have been around enough adoptive situations and scenarios where I can see that weight that lays on the parents. Yeah. That even though they know that their heart is in the right place, they can feel like they’re not qualified to do all of the things that they may be called to do. And we’re living in a culture right now where people are pushing back against you saying like, maybe you just aren’t qualified or Oh, totally different. And I, my my response to that is always the proof is in the pudding. Like, what is it that you’re putting into your kid? What is it that you’re putting into your child? So look, if you have adopted a child, they’re in your house, they are great.

This is no longer the time to go, did I do the right thing? How can I communicate? We’re way past that. We’re way past that now. Yep. Now, now we’re into the pouring in. Now we’re into the surrounding doing, doing, I I I I hate to say doing the work only, listen, that’s a real true thing. But sometimes what happens with doing the work is it can feel like that’s an unreachable state of mind. Yes. A hundred percent Right. You can be in a great, healthy place and still be working. The two things can be the same. Totally. Yep. So yeah. I love that. Well, and and I think that with the white guilt thing, I mean, I can see how people would be, you know, offended about it, but it, it’s a place that it’s, it’s, I don’t want now I’ll get myself in. It’s easy to, to stay there and not move forward and not move out of that. And, and I think it’s, there’s an idea that we should stay there as white parents of like feeling that. And I love that it’s like you said just a little bit ago, like basically like we, we are where we’re at. Like here’s where we at are at and let’s do our best in this moment.

And then, you know, we look at, I look at things with all, with all three of my kids, my bio kids and Harper are of things, mistakes I’ve made and things up. A mom. I’m like, oh gosh. And you can, you can decide to beat yourself up about it. Or for me, you know, it was important for me to apologize to my children that I’m, when I’ve done stuff that I’m like, oh boy, I’m sorry that I was not living my best life, my best parenting life there and then do better and keep moving forward. So I love, like, here we are, here’s, you have the chance, you have the opportunity to keep moving, living where you’re at and moving forward and doing better, you know? Yeah. And, and learning. And and I appreciate you saying that because it, it gives me a chance to process that of like, what that looks like in my own life. And, and I, I always think like if something makes me uncomfortable or you know, that that’s, at least for me, I, I don’t have time. I don’t wanna live in a place of being angry about things all the time. Sure. So what did, what has triggered that and that feeling inside of me and why, you know? Yeah. So, you know, if that does upset someone listening, I’d say, what about that triggered something in you Right.

That you should explore, you know, what that looks like in, in your own life. But I appreciate that. I think it’s, I appreciate all of that. I think, you know, I love thinking about things and a new light and a with a new angle and, and that’s, that’s pretty huge. So, well, well, lemme say, I’ll tell you real quick. Well, yeah, keep going. I was gonna say, sometimes it can feel really heavy, like the journey to kind of learn more, to seek things out this side or the other. And especially right after George Floyd, a lot of books started coming out. Everybody felt like they needed to read from how to be anti-racist to cast all those things. And, and sometimes things can be, things can feel really, really heavy when you choose to kind of like lean in, lean in and listen to Black voices. I think it’s important to understand a couple of things. We are not monolithic. Right. Like black people, there’s not just one way to be black. And in the same way there’s not just one way to communicate our stories. And now I know we’re talking about A Door Made for Me, but when I wrote I take My Coffee Black, like I wanted to have a book that had the kind of weight of cast and how to be an anti-racist and all of those things.

But also to be humorous, to be, to connect with you to talk about music that we might all relate to, to, people joke about how my book is kinda like the stranger things of books. Cause it takes them to a very specific like nineties, two thousands. Cause the music I talk, talk about, you know what I mean? Yes. The glory days of our music. But it’s true, like the book does represent who you are and all of your, like the facets of you. It’s true. That’s exactly what it is. It doesn’t look like anything else. Right. And but with that, what ends up helping is you as a reader as, oh, I’ll tell you there, there like as a white person reading and a black person reading you as a, as a white person reading it, go Here I am going deep into the life of an, of a black person right now. Like he’s taking me into his fears, his failures, and I’m walking this thing that hopefully by the end of this I can feel like I’m sharing in the same things that he is. So I have a better understanding who he is. And then when black people read it, they go, dude, this is my story. Or this is, these are words that I wasn’t able to connect with to communicate in a way. And I feel this and I’m not alone here.

So I say all that to say there are stories out there, there are books, there are people that are speaking that are not going to feel heavy to you Yeah. But are going to feel like lessened wrapped in loved. Yes. And I would invite parents to pursue those things because it’s only going to make you better. And those things are out there and they exist. They do. I love that. And I mean, I think I’ve unconsciously done that and, and through your book, I mean, we talked previously to this call, but there were things I think I said to you of like, oh gosh, I’m sorry you went through this. We had something similar. You know, it’s just that through the whole thing. And I think that’s, those are good words of wisdom of like, it doesn’t all look the same. And ah, I think it’s important to read some of those books, but you don’t have to stay in the heavy the whole time. Yeah. You can also read a kid’s book. You can read, you know, I take my Coffee Black, you can watch and read. There are tons of things out there. Everybody’s got a different thing. Everybody’s telling their story. And you’re right, it’s not monolithic. It’s, there are so many beautiful voices that are out there sharing their experience. And we have so much to learn. And I think that’s like the best advice in general with everything.

And that’s what you preach and what you live out. And these books highlight that. So we talked about doors being open. I wanna wrap this up with like how, what are ways that we can all hold a door open for people that might not always be invited in? Like what have you learned, what have, share a little bit of your experience and what that’s looked like. We’re about four days off of Martin Luther King Jr Day. Yep. And I was a guest on Sirius XM show on, on that day, on Monday on Urban View. My friend Karen Hunter. And we were talking about M l K in a really deep way. We were talking about the last book that he wrote called Where Do We Go From Here? And people tend to forget when it came to Martin Luther King Jr. That he didn’t just believe that racism is something that needed to be changed and defeated and worked through. He spent most of his life continuing to look at the people in whom he thought Jesus was looking at it. So as he walked the earth, he was constantly looking at marginalized individuals and how could he walk with them in a better way and have forward movement for them.

We read in the scriptures about how Jesus, for the late part of his life, spent most of his energy yelling at the church saying, what you think you know is not what you know, but if you stop and look at the people in front of you, stop and look at the people in front of you and see where the need is. If you walk with those people, you’ll be doing what my kingdom is asked. Yeah. And I feel like that’s where we are now. Yep. We have the ability to stop and look around and see who are the people that are marginalized and who are in need right now. We have that ability. That’s not horrible. The question is, is will we do that? Yep. Will, will we do it? And Martin Luther King at the end of his life had walked through Birmingham, had had fought for, for colored people for all of his life, but still, even towards the end of his life, he was going, there are poor people here. Yep. There are people that are not being seen. What can we do so that they can be seen? Because I think that’s what Jesus would do. And I think that’s the calling that we have, whether we are Christ followers or not Yep.

Is to look at individuals who not only don’t have the doors that are opening to them or that are closing their face, but those individuals that need us to help swing those doors wide open. And you walk and be waiting on the other side saying, and holding our hand out. Pull ’em through. Come on, we are here. Yeah. And, and that’s not easy. No. But I think that’s what A Door Made for Me is really all about. I love that. It’s, that’s exactly it. That’s what Jesus did. I mean, and that’s when, when, you know, it’s not easy sometimes that’s my marker for myself personally. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Yeah. Because it’s not the easy thing. And that tends to, it’s, you know, the Christian walk isn’t necessarily about, I’m not trying to say it’s everything that’s hard. You’re supposed to do hard, hard, hard. But those, that, that’s the calling right there. And that’s the door that you’re holding open and hand putting your hand out sometimes and helping pulling through. And I think that’s beautiful. Thanks my friend. You are beautiful. Oh, thank you. I feel the same about you. No, thank you. I I, I so appreciate you taking the time to do this. And it’s my favorite when I get to do something like this and I walk away, I’m like, gosh, I’ve got a lot to think through and process and I learned a lot.

And so I appreciate you spending the time with us to, to, I mean, preach and teach and all the things and just share your heart and who you are. It means so much to me. So thank you. Of course. And I, I just wanna encourage your listeners to continue to come back and listen to you in what you’re doing. Oh. Because this sounds like a wonderfully safe place to be for people to really get to hear hearts. And I love that you’ve created that community. So thanks for having me my friend.

That was the incomparable Tyler Merritt. I’m not joking. Head to your local bookstore and buy his books right now. I Take My Coffee Black and A Door Made for Me. And then also go on to Audible and buy them there too. Because I swear to you, listening to these books was so much fun. And at the end you’re gonna feel like he’s your friend. But he does a amazing, creative, beautiful job with them. Make sure that you join us on social media for a chance to win free signed copies of A Door Made for Me. We’re over on social media at All God’s Children International. If you liked what you heard, make sure to follow us and rate us wherever you listen to podcasts. It would mean a lot. Thank you so much for listening.