Thursday, February 9, 2017

Consider this my Voxer message

You know that thing when you haven’t talked to a friend in a really long time, and then it takes you even longer to connect because you know you need a good long uninterrupted stretch where you can talk on the phone? That’s how I feel about my blog right now. Like I never have enough time to do a catch-up justice, so I just never call. So instead, let's pretend this is a boxer message, which is a much less intimidating way to catch-up, particularly for introverts who avoid phone calls at all costs.

2017 guys. Somehow it seems like a whole other world than the one we left behind just over a month ago. Somehow it’s already February, and somehow the cherry blossoms are trying to push out of their winter slumber oh-so-early, like the whole earth is in a rush.
I decided to do another 365 project again this year, and I told Adam that over 50% of my pictures are just our kids playing in the backyard. Because our world is big and small, wide and ever-closer-to-home. We are doing our best to live out big things like peacemaking and bridge-building, reconciliation and faith; but to do it in decidedly small ways, right on our street, with our neighbors and each other (this is much harder than it sounds).

Yesterday, we were lucky enough to get a tour of the pediatric heart research facilities at CHOA, where Caden had his surgery just a few months ago. Caden, in fact, required much assurance that we were just looking, that no one was going to give him medicine or poke/prod/slice him. On our tour, we saw a 3D printer working to print heart valves to put inside children. We saw the work they are doing to study the hearts of rats, beating in quick tiny pulses. They explained the ways they are studying ever-smaller pieces of the heart, the ways they break everything down to individual cells, in order to find solutions for the whole hearts of kids.

And this, of course, is exactly what we have to do. Raise our voices for things that matter, while every single day breaking everything down to its smallest parts. Loving our family, loving our neighbors, spending time on the tire swing with folks who look nothing like ourselves. Sharing meals across tables, reading less BuzzFeed and more books.

This year I also officially went on staff at Blueprint 58 (our nonprofit). This feels embarrassingly like non-news. I mean I have been a part of things all along, I have never not had my life and our home and family entwined profoundly and inextricably from the “work” our nonprofit is doing in the community. But we decided in 2017 that sometimes “wise choices” and health insurance and raising more support are actually just another way of labeling disobedience to our calling, another word for fear. And this year seems like as good a time as any to choose obedience, to choose courage, to step out in faith.

If you want to know more about what I’m doing at Blueprint, and the ways we are trying to grow this year, PLEASE send me an email or message or phone call. I would love to chat about it more, particularly over chips and cheese dip and diet coke or margaritas, please and thank-you.

All of this to say that we are still here, still living in our community and family in the most faithful ways we know. Listening to the voices we trust on all the (potentially scary) things that are happening in the world, both big and small. We are making ourselves lower and less, in order to figure out how to make bigger changes in the community and world we are rooted in. We are committed to justice and to peace, to life and laughter, and having all-the-people over for dinner (get on our invite list!).

So there's my Voxer message/update, now it's your turn! Feel free to leave me a long, rambling message about what's going on your life (ps - want to actually connect on Voxer? yes please!) Or you can just comment or email me, I'd love to connect. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Though (Because) it is fleeting

Today is the day. When the next four years begins. When Trump becomes president.

I was trying to find a poem to post, someone wiser than me who spoke truth and life straight to my soul. And I found only this:
“Resistance is the protest of those who hope, and hope is the feast of those who resist.” (Jurgen Moltman)

For me, this day at least, resistance means taking middle school girls from my neighborhood to see Hidden Figures. It means praying with my daughter and together opening our eyes to the hurting around us on both sides of every issue. It means always standing for truth and goodness, for welcoming the stranger even as leaders build walls to keep them out. It means actively working against greed; and it means moving down the ladder as often as we can, gently placing our feet alongside those we love who don’t look like us. Because the Jesus we love always works mightily in the soil of oppression and fear, moving His people towards justice and peace in ways unseen and powerful, right there on the margins and at the bottom. Because we do not fear the powers and principalities of this world, but rest in the knowledge that the one who holds all our futures will sustain and carry us through even the most frightening political climates and careers. We will choose not to despair, to believe God has lost control or the world is going to “hell in a hand basket,” but to actively remember the ways that God’s people are fighting for what is good and true. We will believe in goodness and in what is right, and we will march towards it no matter what happens today.

I remember today, as I flick off the news, that the days are fleeting. I only have to look at my children to understand how quickly four years can pass. I know too that in the midst of long nights rocking babies who won't sleep, this time-warp seems difficult to fathom. And when we lose sight of the long arc of the universe, we can forget our role to be bridge builders and ones who stand always in the gap. We will do our best today and tonight and tomorrow and the next day to bend the arc towards justice, even a little. To resist the empire and stand for love, always love.

A week or two ago (I can't know exactly because like I said, time moves quickly), Atlanta was threatened with an ice storm. Like good southerners, we bought out all the bread and milk from the store. Instead of a few inches of snow, however, we only ended up with a world encased in a fragile layer of ice. Not enough ice to last under the warmth of the sun, not enough to stop dripping and soaking Caden’s boots straight through, not enough to skate on or stick your tongue to tiny icicles; just enough to glitter for a moment, showcasing the beauty and encapsulating all the sun in brilliance for a few hours one morning. Quickly though, the boys stripped off their heavy coats to shoot hoops in the backyard, and the little ones dropped their gloves into mud puddles left behind as the ice reversed its way back through the states of matter.

Time will always fly, I suppose, and it will provide brilliant moments of light and glitter, followed by mud puddles and cold drizzle. Whatever the next four years brings, we will hold fast to the beautiful pieces and always stand rooted for the causes of justice and hope, even when the ice melts and the glitter fades.
Love and hope and resistance always, 
Becca

Monday, January 2, 2017

When the Christmas Cactus Needs a Little Light

We took down all our Christmas decorations today. Ashton was appalled that we were doing it so soon, even as we pointed out the droopy Christmas tree limbs showering the carpet with brown needles. Adam took the Christmas cactus off the mantle, and when I went to lay blessedly on the bed for a few minutes, I noticed he had put it on the windowsill where it could soak in the light. Because even on a cold and gray first day of 2017, we all night to find a little light to help us grow. To perk up our tired branches and breath life into the parts that seem dead. This year, I'm determined to find the light and park myself in front of it. To soak in the presence and words of the Lord who offers light and life to even the parts of myself that I am uncertain can live again.

I took a picture 324 out of 365 days in 2016, mostly with my actual camera and not just my phone. Admittedly, I might have cheated a time or two and used pictures from a different day, because whatever man.
But my goal for 2017 is less perfect pictures. More grain and blur and all-the-mess because life leans chaotic rather than perfect, and I'd rather capture it exactly as it is rather than how I think it should be. A wise friend reminded me via email today that Jesus isn't waiting for me to be better; that He is quite content with me right now. So my goal for my photo-a-day project in 2017 is just to capture the right-now. The way things really are, sometimes too dark, often blurry and out-of-focus; but somehow beautiful nevertheless.

Ashton also told me today that I should write every day this year. That he thinks I should write a book, and that my goal this year should be to write a page a day. I laughed, while Adam nudged me in agreement. So perhaps this year I'll make my writing goal the same as my photo-a-day goal. To write even when things seem hopelessly dark and tearful. To put words on the page that capture life exactly how it is, rather than how I think it should be. Because I don't always (or rarely) know best anyways, and sometimes a Christmas cactus grows less in a pretty mantle display than perched on a windowsill where no one but me will ever see it.

Friday, December 30, 2016

In-the-Between

Between Christmas and the New Year is mostly suspended animation. No school, warm temperatures and rowdy kids filling the streets, waiting in lines to return the things that don't fit quite right, filling our time with "fun family activities" while silently counting the days until school starts back up for the new semester.

The message of Christmas, I suppose, came mostly in an emptying, the swelling and birthing as an emptying of divinity for the sake of our souls. And yet, we have spent the season scurrying around doing the opposite. Filling our calendar and our trees and our stockings with all the things we think we need or mostly just want. We fill and fill, and I am sick to death of all the ways I stack things under the tree whose branches grow limp and needles pepper our floor with spikes. I am snappy and grouchy and my fingers itch with the impulse to buy more things for delivery right to my turquoise front door. Adam is out of town and I yell at my children, words I cannot even bear to repeat as I imagine the ways they have torn holes in Jayci’s soul. I apologize and she apologizes, and I fear the worst for all the brokenness that never gets hidden by all my doing and buying.

Cookies for neighbors, thank-you gifts for donors, and Christmas cards for everyone, complete with a smiling picture with Zack holding Jayci while Isaiah laughs, and Caden’s hair grows a touch too long over his eyes. Our life is full, we declare, and it is true; except I have forgotten the emptying. And I feel empty, but not the good kind. More like hollow. Like we only missed one Advent reading all season, which is somewhat of a miracle, and yet we may have missed the whole point.


We busy ourselves soliciting year-end donations we desperately need, and coordinating gift-giving for all the folks who have an abundance and feel charitable this time of the year; after all, we know intimately all the ones who have the need and so we straddle both worlds, us stretched thin between.

We bring the gifts to their apartment and I hope that no one notices the fancy Mercedes we park outside. You’re giving out gifts? someone yells, we need some too! I laugh and joke that these kid-clothes won’t fit her and sorry, before trudging up sagging steps and pushing open the door without a knob. And there are grand-kids and cousins bursting at the seams upstairs, leaving hand-prints on the walls while grease bubbles on the stove, and they want to know which gift is for them. There’s never going to be enough to fix the whole broken world.

Which, of course, is why we need the one who broke Himself to fix the world. The emptied womb to fill us all and save us all and forgive us all.

Christmas is already gone. Another year spent with the getting and giving and gifting, and we pack it all up to haul back into the attic in red and green plastic bins.

And so we will try in this new year to live differently, to start with the death and the emptying and live backwards to the birth and forwards to the resurrection simultaneously. We will make the kind of choices everyone calls crazy, because perhaps the thing we really need in a world gone mad is a different way of doing everything. To empty instead of fill; to say no instead of yes, and to say yes when instinct demands we say no.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mary's Song

She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger  -Luke 2:7
Her new baby wails tiny mews through barely open eyes, she shushes him and wraps her cloak against the cold while he suckles noisily at her breast. Her uterus contracts and blood stains mar the straw beneath them, a reminder of the messy ways life wrestles itself into the world. Eventually she hands baby Jesus to Joseph, who wraps him tightly in swaddling cloths expertly, his arms pinned to his side and his lips sucking while he sleeps. Joseph presses his lips to Jesus’s wrinkly forehead, his scratchy beard making his son’s eyes twitch and nose scrunch. Mary gazes quietly with joy over her son, with unknowing and knowing, with fear and hope, and with the kind of expectancy that brims with all the promise of new life. Finally they all three recline and surrender to sleep beneath the holy noisy peace that night.

Everything is ordinary and extraordinary all at once, just like for every new parent; Mary's muscles sore and hearts full from the excruciating joy of birthing something new. The weary parents wake too soon to baby coos and the bleats of lambs carried by shepherds, arriving with angel songs on their lips. They are unlikely subjects for an unlikely King, for the son she swelled with and carried and broke herself open to bring forth. She nestles Jesus closer into her still-soft young curves, bending herself into the crook of Joseph’s arms while the donkeys bray and the stars blink bright overhead like one million times the sky failed to contain the brilliance of heaven.

Mary breaks off a piece of unleavened bread and gives thanks for the scandal tucked in the crook of her arm and the man snoring beside her who married her anyways. She glances over and locks eyes with her donkey and offers thanks for the things that carried her through, as stubborn and grouchy as they might be. She slips her shoulder from her blanket as Jesus blinks his eyes open. She imagines she sees herself in the slant of his nose, in the particular shade of his brown eyes set beneath thick dark brows. She strokes the down on his cheeks, follows the curve of them down his neck, wondering if she sees his Father’s wisdom set behind his eyes trained somewhat unsteadily on her face. Wonders if perhaps it’s his Father she discovers in the perfection of his tiny fingers and toes, He who she notes in the strength of his wail. She smiles lightly and winces equally in pain, lifting Jesus back to her breast and she begins a new conversation with the flesh of her flesh who has come to rescue them all.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving and Expectant Hope

We spent Thanksgiving in Chicago this year, visiting my little sister and her husband, both of whom are chefs and therefore the perfect choice for a Thanksgiving visit. On our way to Chicago, we made a quick stop in Indiana to visit the ever-lovely and gracious Shannan, whose friendship is for sure one of the best gifts that the internet has ever given me. Not to mention that our kiddos played together like well-behaved champs (Thanksgiving miracle?) and our hubbies both have impressive beards and a penchant for prison-dwellers. We ended our whirlwind cross-country trip with a stop in Michigan for my aunt's wedding celebration. The only thing that could have made our trip better was if I didn't come down with a nasty stomach bug as we were leaving Goshen that lingered for basically the whole trip, and made it near-impossible to enjoy any of the festivities. Whatever man, just my luck.
Now that we are home and my children are blessedly back in school, I am bewildered to find myself smack in the middle of the holiday season that somehow snuck right up on me. Jayci has made Christmas countdowns for the whole family, and according to her math there are only 26 days until Christmas. This must not be right, I argued, but it turns out that indeed her math skills live up to her straight 100s on her report card.

All that to say, I am desperate this year for a chance to slow down. To buy less and give more. To choose carefully which "festivities" and celebrations and holiday markets and other activities are worth our family's time and energy, and will contribute to a heart attitude of expectant waiting for our newborn King's arrival. So easily I find myself caught right up in the hustle and bustle of the season, both by default and by FOMO attending all-of-the-things; this year, however, we are trying to pare down and focus our eyes on Jesus.
That said, we are practicing Advent (or trying to anyways), and will be reading Ann Voskamp's book together as a family. True confession: we don't do the Jesse tree and ornaments, because I just cannot with the printing and cutting out and stringing up. Reading something every day seems a far more (possibly) achievable goal for our family. We are all about managing expectations around here.

I've also been paring down my online reading to spend more time between the pages of a book and less listening to political rants via Facebook. For me, there are a few trusted and wise voices that I find myself revisiting time and time again in this season. And because I love you all dearly, I wanted to share some of those voices with you here:
Shannan (obviously) - Two Kinds of Buckets
Sarah Bessey's advent newsletter and devotionals
DL Mayfield - Day 26
Kelly Nikondeha- Insistent Hope 

As one last side-note, today is #GivingTuesday, which is a way (in theory) for us to take a step back from all the busy consumption in order to give generously to people and causes and places that are close to our hearts. In practice, I feel like the whole thing is another cacophony of "advertisements" and flurries of voices insisting where we should point our money. I am weary of all the noise, and so hesitate to add my voice to the din. Instead, I'll just say that if you feel led to contribute to what we are doing in Atlanta (through our nonprofit Blueprint 58, meaning tax-deductible), you can visit our website for more information on how to do that. As always, we are honored and grateful and humbled again and again by the ways you all support and encourage and carry us on our journey.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On the Election, from a Canadian in the City

If I am going to begin anywhere, I suppose here is as good a place as any: I will not be voting today. This is because I am an immigrant, with a green card to prove it. My Canadian heritage also provides me an excuse to slip myself neatly out of election conversation and political arguments alike. (My non-voting status aside, let’s assume I lean Canadian in my political views both as a result of upbringing and the particular path my life has wrought).

Caden went back to school yesterday, not even two full weeks after his heart was wrenched open, re-plumbed, and wired shut. I was somewhat of a nervous wreck all day, reminding him of no climbing or big hugs, no wrestling, lots of water, no gym class or climbing wall. He practically rolls his eyes and pushes me out the door at drop-off, no worries in his sweet little heart over the bottom-dropping-out. A few nights ago (and then again last night) he had what seemed like a night-terror combined with a flashback to post-surgery in the hospital. It was horrifying, he sobbed for me to help him and wailed over and over how much it hurt. Jayci cried and brought him water and Adam and I stroked his forehead and whispered he was safe.

I have been struggling through Caden’s recovery the past two weeks. A combination of anxiety and cooped-up-ness has brought on a bout of depression that I can’t quite shake. The truth is that there is always always much to fear, so many things that could (and sometimes do) go wrong. I know his heart will always be a risk factor for Caden, but just as reasonably I could fret over car accidents and cancer diagnoses or perhaps which candidate will emerge victorious today.

But if I have learned anything by walking through Caden’s two very different heart surgeries it is this: there is always always going to be fear and loss, and there will always always be the overcoming of it. A friend reminded me this week that the two are not inextricable, and that God is good and holy through it all. And so the real truth is that whoever wins, whoever gets sworn in as the next president of our nation, God will not lose His throne, and we will be afforded many chances for the overcoming of fear and loss during the next four years.

That said, Adam and I have always talked about how to find ourselves on the right side of history, and we conclude that we must always side with the least powerful, the marginalized, the poor. I worry about the climate that would be fostered by subjecting our nation to a leader who leads with rhetoric of fear and hate. Who is not afraid to mock, to debase, to threaten, and to otherwise demean the very humanity of people and groups that I have to believe Jesus would choose again and again. (As a side note, I don’t believe a word he says about who he will put on the supreme court -or anywhere - because he has made it clear that his own words and promises mean nothing to him). When the neighbors who we love and choose to live in solidarity with say they are actually afraid for their lives and safety if a certain candidate wins, I can and will not ignore that. In the same breath, of course, I recognize more chances for us all to overcome fears on every single side of every single issue and debate. I see and understand and agree with many fears surrounding the future of the supreme court, and a Hillary presidency as well.

There are people who I respect and love and who are voting for Trump based primarily on the singular issue of abortion. And I am pro-life, and absolutely agree in the value of every life from the moment of conception. I just submit that if this is the only issue you are using to determine your vote, if it actually matters that much to you, than perhaps you should let that issue matter all-the-time. Volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers, write about it, lobby against it, educate teenagers about it. The number of babies that Adam and I have offered to adopt in order to dissuade girls in our neighborhood from abortions is currently four. And when girls (some of whom are basically babies themselves) decide to choose life instead of an abortion, they need lots and lots of help (I mean, I’m barely surviving motherhood and I have a degree in child development). So if we want to be citizens and voters who are known for our ethics of pro-life, then let’s live that out every day instead of once every four years. Let’s teach our children how to be pro-life by the very way we live, the ways we celebrate and fight for life and dignity for every single person every single day.

I recognize both my lack of political knowledge and my own privilege in this conversation. I am an immigrant, and I have never once been stopped or asked for my green card. When politicians discuss dangerous immigrants and refugees, about building walls, I am always certain they don’t mean Canadians (mostly because we’re so polite and kind, eh?) My life in our neighborhood with higher levels of crime and in which I am the minority is by choice, not circumstance. I can always leave. We could, quite easily, head back to my oh-so-polite homeland. But Adam insists we cannot. I get it, he said. I understand why we would want to flee. But what if he wins and then all the Trump-opposers actually leave? If everyone who stays in the United States is either a die-hard Trump supporter, or a minority/marginalized person without the means to flee. What a disaster, he says.

So no matter the outcome, we will stay, I suppose. Dashing my dreams of idyllic Canadian countryside in favor of staying to stand for our belief in a bottom-up Kingdom. We will practice the sacred and brave sacrament of staying put. Of planting our feet and loving our neighbors, of doing the laborious and beautiful work of practicing kinship with the marginalized no matter what.

We will stand for truth and goodness, for welcoming the stranger even as leaders build walls to keep them out and then expect them to foot the bill. We will actively work against greed, even as the leaders of our country promise to restore it. We will move down the ladder as often as we can, gently placing our feet alongside those we love, no matter what it means for our own futures. Because the Jesus we love always works mightily in the soil of oppression and fear, moving His people towards justice and peace in ways unseen and powerful, right there on the margins and at the bottom.  Because we do not fear the powers and principalities of this world, but rest in the knowledge that the one who holds all our futures will sustain and carry us through even the most frightening political climates and careers. We will choose not to despair, to believe God has lost control or the world is going to “hell in a hand basket,” but to actively remember the ways that God’s people are fighting for what is good and true. We will believe in goodness and in what is right, and we will march towards it no matter what happens today.

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