I am from Nana’s oil paintings imitating the Impressionist masters
from Russian matryoshka nested dolls and Great Aunt Laverne’s tea cup collection
I am from a house atop Cat Mountain with the best sunsets
and the sound of cars on the highway below lulling me to sleep at
I am from the Hill Country and roads cut through limestone
populated with cedar trees whose bark peels off like an old skin
I’m from eccentric introverts and too many gifts at Christmas
from Heatherly and Elena who made me the middle sister
from dad traveling overseas too much doing lots of good things for other people.
I’m from “this too shall pass” and “we have not earned any of the things we have” and
“if the Lord wills and you see me again” before every parting
From “Where are you going my little one” sung every night by Mama before bed til I cried
from the grief of leaving her one day.
I’m from every song, even commercial jingles, sung together in tight harmonies
I’m from Connecticut and Scotland but not really because I’m from Texas Texas Texas
down to great and greater grandparents who gave birth in one room houses in Cleburne
and made sweet potato biscuits and black eyed peas at New Years.
From Anna Christie’s drowned husband and
Otis from Sweden whom she raised as her own when his mother died in childbirth
From Papa who left home at fourteen, spent three years as a POW in Java
and went back to Japan after the war to be a missionary
From diaries written with pre-teen tears about how I’m too fat, fears of death, glass miniature bric-a-brac, rock and shell collections displayed in wooden cubby shelves on my bedroom wall,
from the only time I ignore Mama’s call for dinner or food on any kind is when I’m reading in bed
Now I am from uncaulked baseboards, grimy from years of bringing the outside in
from the smell of fertilizer and fish immulsion mixed with cooking tomatoes
Now I am from the maple trees tapped every year for syrup and boiled down in a black
cauldron in the white winter woods
from poems written at the narrow creek that bends
round from here to the wider streams
Now I am from a tanned farmer whose tender loving hands are often cracked and running
with dirt, blood and rain
from a fairy who feeds the chickens in her princess dress and muck boots
from a cuddly Tom Sawyer who waves at Daddy driving by in the tractor
while holding his dinosaur to his chest
Now I am from a community of idealists, hippies, peace-loving Mennonites
And I am not one of them but I am
I am also from Jesus. And he has been there from the beginning.
I am synchroblogging with SheLoves Magazine today with their series on “I am From.” You can read more or link up here.
I love being able to stay at home with my kids. It’s a gift I try not to take for granted. But the downside of being engaged with them all day is that I don’t often get time for personal … Continue reading →
I’m so honored to be guest posting over at D.L. Mayfield’s blog today. I’ve been so impressed by D.L. Mayfield’s writing and life: she shows such compassion, humor, and love in her work and way of living. She’s recently begun a blog series on “downward mobility.” Check out her thoughtful and moving explorations of living in the upside down kingdom.
I wrote this post over at collaborative blog I started at the beginning of the year. It’s called Renew and Sustain. Thought I’d share it here as well.
A recent video of a Brazilian toddler learning the truth about where his meat comes from went viral. He didn’t understand why anyone would kill animals and eat them.
Afterwards, many “should we really be eating meat?” essays, blog posts, and articles followed.
I understand. The truth is that much of the meat we consume in this country has come from animals raised in filthy and frightening conditions, animals who are killed and slaughtered in equally horrible places that have little respect for their life or death. In many ways, vegetarianism and veganism are “kinder” diets.
But I’d like to give another perspective. Not one that claims everyone should eat meat or that argues that we should be able to kill animals because, after all, they’re just animals. No, I love vegetarians and if my husband didn’t love meat so much, I might just become one.
This perspective is simply the lessons a child can learn growing up on a small farm.
Because of our deeply held moral, ethical and spiritual beliefs about the care we should show all of God’s creatures, my husband raises grass-fed cows for meat and we buy pork and chicken from small local farms that care similarly for their animals.
Matthew has taken to bringing one of our children along with him when he buys a new cow or takes them to be butchered.
After a strange and long winter with flurries even in mid-April, we entered into the heat and rain of spring on bended knee, nearly kissing the green earth in thanks and praise. When our monthly community worship time approached, I decided to plan it as a praise time for the rebirth of spring. But as I planned, I was a little lost and distracted by the sense that the joy I wanted to convey wasn’t the only thing I was feeling.
With bombs, explosions, factory collapses, stories of abuse and pain, friends that are struggling, I can’t seem to shake the grief from my shoulders.
When I was three, I started asking my mom where children go when they die. A few years later, my nighttimes were so plagued by fears of the dark and of the faces on the woodgrains of my closet door that my mother, out of desperation, did a sort of exorcism of the evil from my room. In Jr. High and Highschool, I refused to go to parties where they would show horror movies.
Clearly, I thought about death and dark things quite a lot from an early age. And gradually, I’m ashamed to admit that I began to hole myself off from bad things. I tried to focus instead on beautiful things, good things, funny things, pleasing things, lighthearted things, all in an effort to keep those bad thoughts from my mind.
You’re way ahead of me, aren’t you, knowing already that it doesn’t work to avoid the brokenness of the world, mainly because so much of it is inside me already.
Eventually, I realized that instead of shutting away or hiding from the darker things of the world, I needed to find a way to cope with them to write about them and most importantly, to lament and grieve the brokenness in our world.
Many books of the Old Testament chronicle the lament of Israel, the prophets and even, occasionally, the lament of a king or two. When I began reading Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination with Kelley Nikondeha’s book club, I was struck most of all that those who speak prophetic words often must energize a community or a society into action by speaking directly to the pain and mortality in all of us. For someone like me, it’s easy to pretend that if we just ignore the bad things, they will go away. But it ain’t gonna happen. And those prophetic voices are laboring to do the very opposite: to shake us out of our complacency and open our eyes. And what’s more, I’m realizing that the more I peer into the darkness, into my own brokenness and the pain others endure, looking for some glimmer of hope or redemption, the more I’m seeing the God of all light.
Brueggemann’s book inspires me to listen for those prophetic voices who are speaking into the cracks in our hearts, urging us into compassion and action.
I think this song,
by Ruth Moody is a beautiful take on facing the darkness and letting a song bring light, transforming it from trouble and woe to mystery and joy:
This world is full of trouble and woe/All I see is trouble everywhere I go/I’m gonna sing the trouble that I know
This world is full of sadness and tears/They fill us full of sadness and full of fear/I’m gonna sing until my eyes are clear
I’m gonna dig deep down into my heart/I’m gonna dig deep down, I’m gonna do my part/I’m gonna sing, sing a brand new start
This world is full of promise and love/Promise of a new day with no dark clouds above/I’m gonna sing that world I’m dreamin’ of
This world is full of joy and mystery/ This world will be of joy, I believe it will be/ When we know what it is to be free
This world is full of trouble and woe/All I see is trouble everywhere I go/ I’m gonna sing, sing my way back home
Not usually a big fan of country but I heard this song in a rare moment when I was in the car by myself and could actually listen to MY music.
I’m kind of geeky: I like this song because it uses “Mary” in so many ways. I think it’s quite creative. And I like her voice.
Melodies for being stuck inside, when the sun has made mud and slush of the melting snow and we are awaiting those first buds of Spring. Best dance around the living room with the kids song (my pick): *Fanfarra (Cabua-Le-Le) by Sergio … Continue reading →
Historically, this has been a day dedicated to advancing the human rights of women and children. It was inspired by an 1857 protest in New York City by garment workers who were decrying appalling work conditions and low wages. Over the years, this has been a day to celebrate advances for women.
But sometimes it seems as if there’s very little to celebrate.*
Women and children are still trafficked for sex not only around the world but in the US as well. Children are homeless lacking a safe home or basic necessities. Single mothers struggle to make ends meet, all the while facing a system that either shames them for needing assistance or allows them to fall through the cracks.
Today, I want to acknowledge women that lament the sadness of the not-yet.
That mourn with the women and children who aren’t yet safe or free from abuse and pain.
I want to celebrate women who love and serve. Who hope for future abundance. Who struggle and juggle the demands of daily life to love as Christ does. Who hope for the someday and work for the right-now.
My family women, my sisters, life-giving mothers and creators. They give out song and laughter. They are deeply committed to the church with all its joy and baggage.
They are foster mothers, wives and students. They are single mothers or single.
They are church leaders, ministers, neighbors and friends. They are businesswomen and homemakers.
They are teachers, deep thinkers and book lovers who invest in intentional community and hospitality.
They volunteer and serve the marginalized. They live in inner cities and open their homes to children who don’t have a safe place.
They give their heart to friends in many African countries. They live in Thailand, Texas, Russia, the Midwest, Canada, Scotland, Colorado, and Italy. They share the gospel, homeschool, educate, and parent children while managing the challenges and joys of autism, health concerns and numerous surgeries.
They are creative and loving, wise and kind.
They grow their own food and cook, work full-time, mend and darn and knit like fiends. They know everything about gardening.
They are many: amazing grandmothers, aunts, friends. They are highly educated. They didn’t go to college. They are women whose writing and work inspire.
They are women who’ve quietly and faithfully sailed through the pain of years in community. Who have stayed because of a desperate but abiding hope.
Each of them has left her mark on the world, showing God’s grace, provision and goodness.
I want to celebrate what these women have done to love people in this broken world.
I want to thank them.
*Read Jocelyn’s essay at renew and sustain about her journey of finding hope in the “small” efforts to address the hurts of the world. She is also a woman to be celebrated!
Ash Wednesday services are usually solemn times when we reflect on our own mortality, the death of Jesus and our need for repentance.
But at our Wednesday gathering, we experienced a different aspect of the service: young children running across the linoleum floors, totally oblivious to the solemnity of the occasion. While the rest of us were receiving the ashes on our foreheads, my son ran to the piano and plunked at the keys before anyone could stop him. The black ribbons we tied together as a symbol of our unity in brokenness, my daughter was attempting to use as a jump rope.
As a mother, I was just a little bit horrified and all I wanted them to be was quiet and well-behaved.
But then someone stopped me. A friend with older children (who usually knows just what to say) approached me after the service.
She loved that our children were oblivious to the soberness of the service. She loved that nothing would stop their joy. She loved that we are supposed to have faith and hearts like theirs…full and lively.
So here is this tension of Lent and our lives in Christ. Our faith does and should include the darker things. We will mourn and grieve and be penitent. But we should also share in the joy of celebration, just like our children. Just as we celebrate death on Ash Wednesday, joyful that death will take us to new life, we can acknowledge that death is very very sad. That though Jesus has overcome it, we still feel death’s sting.
I’d like to live in this tension of death-grieving and mortality celebration. I’d like to be joyful in sorrow and patient in solemnity.
And I’d like to be a little more observant of the way my children approach worship and prayer, with unstoppable joy.