Monday, November 24, 2014

For Ferguson and Ashton: Not Away but Towards

"A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect." -W.E.B. Du Bois
I sit and scroll through twitter post-Ferguson-verdict, tears rolling down my cheeks. And my eyes flicker to the clock as it flicks past 11:30pm, and I think about tomorrow morning. Because at 6:45am, Ashton and I will get in the car and ride to work together. And, rest assured, Ashton will know what the jury said; and he will know with equal clarity what their decision says about his life, and how much this nation values it.

I wonder, will we ride in silence; seat warmers on, while the soothing voices of NPR come from the radio?

I hope not. I am just unsure what I can say in the harsh morning light following such a dark night.

I could ask him what he thinks and feels, but I already know the answer: he will be angry. And we ride together to a job we secured for him, from a room we loan him, with lunches packed with food we bought him. No matter how hard I try to make it otherwise, he will feel indebted. How can he really express the ways that our very relationship somehow perpetuates this culture. One where his life is less, where he always has to accept help and know "his place" in the relationship and in this world.

Ok, I think. Instead, I'll tell him how I feel. I'll tell him about the tears I taste pooling salty beneath my lips. The ways I wake weary this morning because my heart can't rest over the grand-jury's decision. I'll explain his infinite worth, no matter what anyone says. I'll try not to cry anew or feel embarrassed when I explain how angry I am, and how unfair it all swells day-after-day. I'll tell him he can, and he certainly should, fight for justice; but to do it smart and careful, and without hating white people.

But still, I fear I will sound only like another white voice reminding him to know his place. Like someone who fears his power and his righteous indignation because I know where it might take him. A swirling cycle that pulls us all down to the lowest common denominator. Because he, of course, is right. My tears flow because I know and deeply love him, and so many who look like him. But not because I have actual skin in the game. Not because I fear how police officers might respond to me or Adam, or what might happen to Caden if he finds himself walking in a hoodie on a dark night. Not because I do not have the choice to turn and walk away.

Then, what can I say as we drive through our city swathed in hopeful early morning light?

I have no answers, no words, no quick tricks or solutions to assuage my grief and guilt, nor his pain.

I don't have answers, but I do have Jesus. I have the promise that He will make things new, and that His peace passes all earthly understanding. I have a growing realization that the most fragile things like hope and peace end up the most powerful. I have forgiveness for the ways I have been complicit, and for the places I have been unmoved.

And I have a reminder that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities that refuse to allow justice or reconciliation.

Because the real question, of course, is not actually whether justice has or has not been served. It is whether or not we will now stand together as followers of Jesus against this darkness. Whether or not we will be willing to share sweat and tears, running together down black and white skin alike, in ways that move to break through His Kingdom right here on earth as it is in Heaven.

So perhaps all I can tell Ashton tomorrow is that I am willing, and I hope that he will be too. That together we can offer the world the kind of hope it so desperately needs this dark night. That as advent begins, we can sit in the lament that is not without hope. That we will wait expectantly for the One who will right all wrongs, but as we wait we will act. And we will not move away from the pain and hard conversations and work, but towards it. 

Voice and Sabbatical

I wake beneath low grey skies, the chair still on the front porch growing soggy under drizzly rain that quickly turns past drizzle straight into downpour. Ducking beneath my hooded jacket, I dash to the van gripping Caden, insistent on coming along and still in his footie pajamas. We drive with wipers squeaking to pick up one of the boys, who apparently decided he would rather sleep in. Air escapes loudly as I turn around to drive back home, only to the phone buzzing and his pleading for me to turn back around because he's awake now. Back home, we eat pancakes and I climb over piled laundry and shove aside dishes to hurry everyone to church. Children leave puzzles strewn and legos stab underfoot. And I cant help but think it's no-wonder so many of us moms feel voiceless, hoarse. Laryngitis setting in from asking the same things again and again. And sometimes I wonder if anyone hears me, ever. 
I've decided to take a break from this space for the holiday season. I will probably return afterwards, but I'm not positive right now. I feel like I'm not sure what to say these days, and I'm not sure anyone is listening anyways. Which probably means mostly that I need time to refocus myself on Jesus and to stop watching the waves. And maybe to re-discover my voice.

I love all of you and hope and pray that the next month is drenched in peace and joy, with family and friends and community that surrounds and uplifts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Very Es-lusive Things

A few years ago, we went to the Dominican Republic with some dear friends of ours. We stayed at a cheap all-inclusive resort which was amazing and lovely, but sometimes we took a timeshare tour so we could go over to the nice side of the resort for the day (they had mojitos). On said tour, the guide continually pointed out all the very ES-LUSIVE things, in particular the es-lusive car-al (exclusive coral). Ever since then, Adam and I have taken to referring to things as es-lusive.

This week, we went back to the Dominican with my family (my parents and sisters and their other halfs), but we stayed in a decidedly es-lusive location. I mean: personal chef and live-in maid in a private villa on a golf-course overlooking the ocean.  And, of course, mojitos.

I believe these approximately one million pictures have sufficiently demonstrated how strongly I wish we were immediately back in our villa (how quickly I become adjusted to a certain lifestyle), instead of trapped in the polar vortex which apparently engulfed Atlanta while we were gone.

Also, in case any of our supporters feel worried that we are spending all the money they send on lavish vacations, this particular vacay is courtesy of my amazingly generous parents. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Flying and Reading (occasionally simultaneously)

What I should be doing: packing. What I'm doing instead: editing pictures until sweet forever. Sheesh.

Tomorrow we leave for our highly anticipated trip to the Dominican Republic with the whole family (us and our kids, my sisters and their other halves, and my parents). Do you notice the best part about that list? Our kids are the only children, which means many hands makes light work. And I might even get to read a book or two. 
That said, I am currently tragically unable to locate my kindle. I have been buying/finding lots of actual books lately so I can add them to the library; however, I always like to have the kindle along when I travel (which is rarely) so that I will never be suddenly and terribly book-less. 
Here are the books I'm bringing for reading on the airplane and by the pool/beach (sigh, I cannot wait for this. seriously. i'm about to be as bad as Caden who has thrown approximately seventy-eight temper tantrums today because he wants to go the beach RIGHT NOW):

How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran
Yes, Please - Amy Poehler
not in my suitcase: Cold Tangerines -- one of the casualties of reading everything too quickly. 
Speaking of flying, we flew kites in the part the other day. I was hoping for blue skies with those white kites; but it turns out my children (and the neighborhood kiddos) could care less about such things. 
 Caden, full-on temper-trantrum mode right here. He wanted to go home immediately.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Why You Should Care About Ebola (Really)

This July, my aunt got married in Sierra Leone where her (now) husband lives, and where she works for literacy. Afterwards, she flew back to her home in Michigan with plans for her new husband to join soon thereafter. I smile over the pictures she sends: her cheeks flush radiant with laughter, and his grin spreading wide across his face. Her creamy complexion and ivory dress dance against his deep brown skin and navy African garb; she tells us the minister speaks of Rebekah and Isaac, from different lands meeting after a long journey.

Now they are still continents apart, plans for him to leave Sierra Leone thwarted by Ebola, and her tickets to go back to him cancelled for the same reason. A disease not, for them, simply a distant and vaguely unsettling theory but a harrowing daily reality. Knowing people changes things. Loving them changes everything.

We do not know, so it feels impossible to love. Instead, we continue to build false ideologies where us gets pitted against them, and what happens on the other side of the world is really none of our concern.

A few weeks ago, in the process of curating some links (which is how I like to describe the process because it sounds very fancy) for y’all, I stumbled across a link called “Why you should care about ebola.” I copied and pasted it to my blog post to comb through more fully, mostly included because I couldn't bring myself to ignore something that obviously loomed so huge. However, when I read through the article fully, I realized that the gist of the message was this: you should care because it will eventually come to America.

Hmm, I thought: that’s not what I meant.

I deleted the link; choosing to keep silent instead. Neither posture correctly nor fully expresses my heart.

My silence lingers, mostly because it’s easier; but also because I have the luxury of spending most of my time not thinking about ebola or any other health (or human) crisis on some distant shore.

Because rest assured, a crisis exists, and it does not lie in isolated incidences of ebola here in the United States. Our country comes equipped with the ability to contain and fight this disease. Even maybe to come up (now) with a cure, a vaccination.

But I fear for a place where the resources are less, and those that do exist dwindle more rapidly as ebola spreads and takes lives and resources from other desperate needs in this country. Adam sat down with my aunt last week, and she told him how the hospitals in Sierra Leone are shut-down to anyone not infected with ebola. Which means people are dying, not just from ebola, but from other things they cannot get proper treatment for like infections and childbirth.

My aunt Jo explains how she asked her new husband, “Is this as bad as the war?” He said, “During the war we knew the enemy; now we fear everyone. During the war we could gather and find comfort with each other; now we separate ourselves. During the war we could escape to the hills or find a safe place; now we are confined to our homes to wait.

Of course these stories pierce our hearts, we cannot allow them not to. The problem is that we feel helpless, we know we can do nothing in the midst of such ordinary lives here. We busy ourselves worrying about our own children, about surviving sleepless nights and toddler temper tantrums. Fear creeps in easy, and ignoring helps keep it at bay.

After Mike Brown and the ensuing events, I ended up watching a video of another police shooting soon afterwards (which I can no longer seem to track down). Quite frankly, I remain rattled by what I saw. My bones quake when I recognize how completely we have forgotten the important truth that lives matter. That life, no matter who it belongs to, beats sacred because of the One who breathed it. That pro-life simply must extend both past birth and beyond our reach. I dont think we can call ourselves Christ-followers and fail to find-our-knees and open our hearts and selves to those who are unlike us.

Because we are not called to fear contagion, but to love compassion.

To love compassion reaches out and touches those who are hurting. The ones everyone else has shut out and declared unclean. And the truth is that it’s messy, easier left unsaid and well-enough-alone. But just as Christ offered His hands as instruments of peace and healing, I think we need to stretch out. To recognize the ways we can enter into suffering even from across the globe, and not just when the suffering comes to us.

I dont have answers or solutions, or even ways to make it happen. But I am hopeful that the church is not dying like they say, but shifting. And that we will become known as a people who love radical and deep. Who love compassion and justice enough to fight for every drop of life in every corner of the globe.

If you’re interested in helping, I would be more than happy to chat with you about that and point you in the right direction, in collaboration with my aunt (who is far more knowledgable regarding the situation and lives than I am). Please email me or leave a comment here anytime. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Unconventional Driving Tour of Vietnam

Every once in a while, I reminisce on my life before kids and inner-city-ministry-chaos. It involved a different kind of chaos, one which I muse over and described a little bit for my friend Sarah's travel series. 
(Also, what a great title, right? I take no credit. I have the most creative friends.
What seems like multiple-lifetimes ago, I used to travel to Asia several times a year for work. Visiting bustling trade shows and towering factories, picking out the perfect pottery and glass designs. For those of you who know me and my life now, this might seem like such an incongruous picture that it’s hard to believe. I completely agree. . . 

(read the rest by heading over to Sarah's blog - A Life with Subtitles

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Celebrating Halloween

This post, quite honestly, might have been easier to write before actual halloween happened. And all its lovely/terrible chaos and meltdowns and cold-sprinkly rain. The main problem was that Captain Hook was so-awfully grouchy. Epic grouchiness, which I suppose we should have expected from a pirate. We then combined a grouchy-pirate with many, many neighborhood children and their younger siblings along with their mentors. Add in hot dogs and smores and wild tire swings and rain that makes the back-yard bonfire decidedly less-fun. And I'll just go ahead and tell you, Peter Pan was not happy.

BESIDES all of that, though, we generally love halloween around these parts. Partly because it offers Adam a great excuse to be weird and make everyone laugh at his craziness, which is absolutely his favorite thing (See exhibits A, B, and C).

Beyond Adam's opportunity to be ridiculous, we love halloween for the ways it brings together our neighborhood. I love a chance to be for something, to be for handing out treats and hugs, and walking together down cracked sidewalks hand-in-hand. For meeting new neighbors and laughing with old ones. For knocking on all the doors, and offering hugs from Tinkerbell and Captain Hook in exchange for mini-snickers bars.
 Yes, he is a real Marine and we could not be prouder of him.
 Caden wore this same chicken costume three halloweens ago, still my heart.
Kids dance around in their costumes and knock on our door into inappropriately late hours of the night. The rag-tag crew all peers around the corner past the bowl of candy to say hi to Adam and I shush them because our own kids have collapsed into bed with post-sugar-crashes hours ago. They all remind me of their names (even though I insist I remember, of course!) because they moved away; but came back to trick-or-treat and knew we would have candy. Actually, we dont, but I steal some
for them from my own kids' stashes, because isnt that what tonight is all about?

Tonight is a chance to learn not to be afraid of others. To embrace the teenagers without costumes and the kids in Jason masks, the neighbors we know and the ones we dont. To share bounty and tiny candy bars abundantly.
 Not to mention, seeing your children dressed in the cutest costumes in all the land.
So we know that the chaos and craziness of this many children who are boxers and princesses, and grown-ups wearing bumblebee costumes and cat-ears, we know the chaos tonight is ok. Even if this is far less than half the group, and they all end up coming inside later because of the rain. And even if the house is a disaster because someone had to sew herself a peter pan hat and therefore had no time for cleaning up the place.
Because that's why I love Halloween, it really just comes down to throwing open our doors to whoever knocks. To building community in small and big ways by walking down streets together, to crossing the street with Mr. Smee, and introducing yourself to the neighbors who just moved in. 


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