D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: birthday

happy birthday, baby

There are a thousand other things I should be writing but I want to write this:

Yesterday, you waved your chubby little hand and yelled “hi!” to the old Somali woman sitting in front of the elementary school. For months now she has tried to get you to like her, she has grabbed your cheeks and kissed your hands and spoken rapid-fire Somali to you. You always get a crumpled face, turn to face me, fling your arms around my legs. We all laugh, all of the moms and grandma’s who gather every day to pick up their kids, but yesterday you did the opposite. Yesterday was your last day of being one, and from your perch in the stroller you spotted a friend, a grandma, an ayeeyo in a teal green hijab, and said hello.

Baby, you stomp your way through life. When you smile you squint your eyes, just like your dad. We thought you were an easy baby, whatever that means, but you are just as complicated as all of us. You have intense opinions. You like to be snuggled. We still rock you to bed, every night. You desperately wish you knew your numbers and your ABCs, but don’t worry—it will happen. You like to dance to music, especially the music your baba listens to. You like to make people laugh.

When you came into the world you were perfect. You didn't know how hard the world was, how sad your mama could get, how unfairly everything is divided. You still don't know, for the most part, you still think everything is glorious right up until the minute it isn't. You teach me, with your goofy grins and obsession with balloons and fierce love of calling yourself "super baby", to try and savor the good as much as possible. To be surprised by delight, when I am tempted to remain entrenched in a low-scale despair. You won't let me, is the thing. You are a string keeping me tethered to God, you are the one leading me into the kingdom of heaven, just like Jesus always said would happen.

//

I have written so much about the birth of my second baby, but none of it is publishable. Perhaps because it is tied to so many thoughts that people don’t like to dwell on: mortality, heaven and hell, anxiety disorders. But due to the nature of my children’s births I can’t help but relive some of that time. The way I cried to Matt Kearney’s song on all the drives to the high-risk OB appointments. The way it was a constant struggle to balance my failing body with the growing one inside of me. The way it all went perfect, up until the moment it didn’t. The long months and years of unraveling and starting to reconstruct again. The body, the faith, the life that has been changed, irrevocably, both for bad and for good.

My life is surrounded by resilience and trauma. I know I sound like a broken record, because life is like a broken record. I have grooves in my brain which have taught me to always be on the lookout for sorrow and sadness and injustice. Facebook tells me that three years ago this post was published, and it remains just as true today as it was then. The sparrows are still everywhere, losing their housing, forging a life, falling to the ground unseen by so many.

Today my mom brought a bunny to one of my neighbors. Her ethnic group, the Rohingya muslims of Burma, is counted as one of the most persecuted groups in the world. What would it be like to be her? I will never know, is the thing. This woman had casually mentioned she wanted a rabbit, and my mom was happy to supply one. I didn’t really believe it, as I had never known any of my friends and neighbors to keep a pet. But when my mom delivered the bunny today, my friend and neighbor was beside herself in excitement. She clutched the little cage to herself and I swear her eyes got teary. This is my last baby, she joked to me and my mom. I was totally unprepared for the delight that a small brown rabbit could evoke in someone like my friend. But I tried to savor it, as best as I could. I am trying, as hard as I can, to get better at nothing the good parts of the world too. I am trying very hard to create some new grooves in my heart, rhythms and routines of hope and joy. 

//

I made a list of things that have changed me the other day, and this is what I wrote:

My neighbors

Almost dying

Having kids

Growing older

My community, mortality, motherhood, and time. Each one of these both wounds and heals, depending on the way you squint. Days of remembrance, days of celebration, cause me to stop and reflect on the positive elements, to see it all as a gift. I’m not the same person I was two years ago, and I’m so glad for that.

In a few days we will have a party for my baby. I invited some refugee friends and they told me it was the first time they had ever been invited to an American’s home. We will have rainbow cupcakes. It will be awkward. There is a good possibility nobody will show up, or dozens and dozens will. We don’t know the future, and there is little use to be gained in worrying about it. Both of my babies and Jesus himself taught me this. Might as well buy some extra Doritos and hope for a good turn-out.

My life looks so different to me, but what was I expecting? I spend hours in meetings with powerful people, I spend hours sitting on the floor listening to women who live very far from their mothers and feel so sad about it. My children fill up the hours of my day with their smiles and screams and sponge-like minds. I read articles on my phone about the terrible things people in government do. I walk by murals for people murdered, I buy a piñata for my baby and carry it through the crowded parking lot for everyone to see. Everywhere I go I am on the verge of tears. My angst, it follows me like a guardian angel, never letting me feeling entirely happy, entirely sad. Welcome to the in-between world. Welcome to what being cracked wide open for the long-haul looks like. 

Welcome to being two years old, my little guide. The world will never be the same, all because of you. 

 

 

 

*for those interested in hearing me talk a bit more about my birth stories, you can listen to the recent episode of the lovely motherbirth podcast. I'm thankful for the opportunity to both share and process. 

thirty-two and rock'n this 'do

I feel bad that everyone can't have as cool of sisters as I do. my younger sister especially is amazing at creating custom birthday hashtags.

I feel bad that everyone can't have as cool of sisters as I do. my younger sister especially is amazing at creating custom birthday hashtags.

 

Both of my children are sick today. Sick enough to be cranky and not go to school, but not sick enough to take long naps. In our personal lives, huge upheavals are happening. We trust the end outcomes will be good, but in the meantime it is unbelievably painful. I just finished the copy edits for my book, and I feel incredibly vulnerable. The negative self-talk has reached a fever-pitch, and I truly wonder why anyone signs up for this. Why do I feel such a compulsion to write down as honestly as I can everything I am noticing around me? Reading this final manuscript, I have to confront a few truths about myself. I am not a funny, empowering Jen Hatmaker type. I am not a gorgeous, literary ethnographer like Chris Hoke. I am not a hard-hitting investigative reporter like Barbara Ehrenreich. I am not a contemplative academic artist like Kathleen Norris. I do not inspire like Shane Claiborne or gently instruct like Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove. Instead, I am a complete and utter mess. 

 

But perhaps my only saving grace is that I tried very hard to be honest about that.

 

//

 

I used to love writing birthday posts, I used to love having themes for the year, I used to love picking out one Scripture to give me focus and inspiration, I used to love the centering practice of being intentional about the next 12 months, of reflecting on who I am and where I have come from and what lies ahead.

 

Now it’s just another day, except it’s a day where I make myself a cake (a Funfetti poke cake, if you must know). It’s another day to kick anxiety to the curb. Another day to say “Not Today, Satan!” (my current favorite phrase). Another day to listen to Rain for Roots sing about the parables (I think it says something right now that I need songs about God that are crafted for children; I am trying so hard to have more of a child-like faith). Another day to marvel at my husband, such a magnificent creature that he is. Another day to kiss my babies and make sure they don’t eat too much sugar or stick their fingers in the electrical outlets. 

 

I’m 32 now, and in the past year I: quit two jobs, had a baby, almost died, moved across the country, developed depression and an anxiety disorder, settled into yet another low-income apartment complex comprised mainly of refugees, edited and revised a book about myself. So . . . that is a lot of stuff, and I can recognize it as such. The upcoming year seems a bit blurry to me. I will get to do a little bit of travel again, I’m gonna run a half marathon in 2 weeks, I’m going to do pursue the weird blend of activism/charismatic ministry/radical vulnerability/relational presence or whatever it is that I do and try to not worry so hard about whether or not others are doing it too. I’m going to try and repent of judgement more often, and care less what other people think of me. 

 

So I don’t have a verse or a plan or a theme for this next year. I still feel worried about it, truth be told. But I do have this picture that my husband took of the tree right outside our door. I have this symbol of so many things I wish for myself and for others, that we can bloom where we are planted, no matter where that place might be. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to the next year. I hope we all get to see some blossoms. 

 

 

 

 

when every day feels like it is your birthday

 

i took a walk the other day, because it was 60 degrees, which is a damn miracle in this place in this month. it has been awhile since i have been able to walk--so much ice on the ground, all that cold wind blowing in my grill. i am still struggling with my body, still not OK with being pregnant and what it all does, i try not to look in the mirror and try not to care as the numbers creep up and up and up. but the other day i was walking around my neighborhood, and i fit in as never before. people gave me the chin-up nods of acknowledgement, the moms pushing strollers side-eyed me with compassion, i hoofed it around the convenience stores and halal markets and taco shops large and in charge and i was just another piece of the scenery of making it here.

we all feel like we never fit in, i am sure of that. but to be a re-locater puts another layer on that whole lie, the one that says both our good qualities and our sins are so very different from the person living in the next neighborhood over. i wear my whiteness every day, and i also wear my pietism and my moralism, the desperation to do some good, the eagerness to befriend and cozy up and transform. but the best thing happens when you get tired, so very tired, and you find yourself just living life and trying to make it. no strategy, no compulsion, just the routines of where you walk and shop and read and play piling onto one another, it all adding up to something more.

i went to get myself a birthday drink this morning (hashtag thirtyoneandhavingfun). i had an hour or two by myself at the coffee shop--a greater gift can no one give to an introvert, i am sure. the coffee shop is starbucks. i hesitate to tell you this, because i know the scorn of the mass-produced myself. but i can't bear to drive farther away to the hipster places, the ones where the coffee is delicious but out-of-my-budget, where i can read and write in peace and quiet and not be bothered by excessive friendliness, content in my isolation. this starbucks i go to is a hub of activity, chock full to the brim at all times with the faces and languages of the neighborhood--mostly East African, and mostly men. they talk loudly and argue and so obviously enjoy hanging out with each other; the lines out the door are long and i fight for a seat at the bar. the word on the street is that this starbucks is called the sugar shack, due to how it goes through 4x more sugar more than any other starbucks in the city. i think about the chai i make for my students during our break time, the horrific amount of sugar i am required to put into each cup in order to make it pleasing to them. and i sit in my noisy, crowded, bastion-of-Empire coffee shop, and revel in the fact that it is simply too chaotic in there to read.

but i try. in fits and starts i read the first few chapters of City of God by Sara Miles and my heart aches with love for my own city. here's a quote from the introduction:

"I began to see that city-ness, not necessary prettiness, might be the characteristic sign of heaven. Sexier and more beautiful than Eden, the city of God is a crowded, busy place jammed with languages and peoples, including the ones who argue so incessantly with one another. A place so mixed, so layered, and apparently impure that it proclaims a love vaster than humans can come up with on our own. A place as surprising and generous as the sheet full of formerly unclean food in the Book of Acts that turned Peter from heaven's gatekeeper into it's dazzled servant."

 

 

as i was leaving the coffee shop i ran into an old student of mine, a woman who never learned to read despite our countless hours trying. she is beautiful and wide-hipped, and her eyes appear to be naturally lined with kohl. she was talking loudly into her cellphone, her bright dress blowing in the breeze, and i timidly waved at her. Still on her phone, she hugged me and kissed me and then exclaimed over my belly. Alhamdulillah! all praise be to God! and she did what my students have been doing for the past few weeks, she kissed her hand and put it on my belly, over and over again. and then she walked on up the street to where ever it was that she was going, and i continued on my own way, receiving the blessings that she had so freely bestowed. 

 

 

in truth it has never stopped feeling like every day is my birthday, my privilege to be here. I am just dazzled, dazzled by it all. 

 

 

 

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