D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: minneapolis

hometown

 

 

We moved. Across the country. We packed up the house and gave away most of our earthly possessions. We kept the clothes, books, blankets, and art. It was 91 degrees and dark and stormy and humid as we scrubbed down the walls of our little dollhouse. How did we live for three years in that city? How did my baby girl grow up there, how was my little boy conceived and born there? How did we manage to live in the Midwest yet not in the midwest, how are we to carry on back to our hometown when we have been irrevocably changed by this place?

I feel poor in spirit, these days. I sit in a backyard surrounded by my mother and father and sisters and babies. I sip iced coffee and eat tortilla chips and feel the warm, dry heat and smell the pine trees of the northwest. I can tell I am older now. I notice the smells of the trees. I need more time to sit and catch my breath. I cry at all the worship songs, even the terrible ones. I just want to go on walks and sometimes I feel tremendously sad but there are several lives all tied to mine and we all need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

How do you explain poor in spirit? I think it means people who have been crushed by the world. This has happened to me, just a little bit. I feel guilty for even typing that out, because I know so many who have been crushed by so much more. My daughter loves that we are spending the next few weeks at her Mimi and Pop-pop’s house, surrounded by chickens and treehouses and fire pits. She tromps around in boots and garden gloves, taking wheelbarrows of sticks and twigs somewhere important, she runs around and waters the plants, plays with the kitten, practices her ABCs. She is having the kind of childhood experience that up until now, she has never had. She is free. But the other day she woke up sad, and it just never went away. I rocked her and rocked her and rocked her, because it is so hard and confusing to be sad in a place where there is also so much joy. 

We still don’t have jobs, we are still waiting on an apartment. I’ve had mostly good days here but a few very sad ones as well. Sometimes it is hard to drive the car, leave the house, talk to anyone, not crouch in a ball of fear and anxiety. I have eaten a lot of blackberry pie. I have tried to sit in the backyard and be grateful for a time of rest. The word Sabbatical has been tossed around. I alternate between wanting to sit in the sun for the rest of my life and rushing into helping save Portland as quick as I can. There has never been very much gray in my life.

This is my home, yet I don’t know it anymore. I don’t know what is good about this city, I don’t know all of the problems. So many people want to tell us about both of them, but we are pretty tired. We are moving slow as molasses these days. Give us a year, maybe, give us some friends who grew up in our new neighborhood or give us friends who moved there involuntarily, give us the newly arrived refugees and immigrants, give us those whose incomes and livelihoods and families depend on it, and then maybe we will know a little bit. We spent the past three years undoing our school book days, we spent the past three years being emptied. And of course we were filled up, but only for that day, that moment, that season. There was no scarcity in the kingdom of God, but there was no hoarding either. 

It’s a new season. I drove past the neighborhood where we will most likely be making a home, on the suburbs of Portland. It’s where the poor have to live now, in so many cities, the very outer ring. It has its problems—lack of walkability, social services and grocery stores, fewer bus lines—and it is, quite frankly, ugly and bleak, full of apartment complexes and shuttered businesses and precious little else. A far cry from our beautiful, old, tree-lined inner-city neighborhood in Minneapolis, a public park every few blocks, the diversity stunning and breathtaking and a gift to all. I try not to mind, but I do. 

Still, I get the sense that it is home. We know who we are a little bit more now, so we know what we need. We don’t need to live in one of the craziest apartment complexes in the city, nor do we need a gorgeous old house to rest our souls in (though we have enjoyed our time in both of those). We need a place to be together in the midst of many, we need a diversity of experiences and languages and countries. We found an apartment complex with 188 units, most of them refugee families. It is the kind of place where it will be very easy for me to be a mom. It is the kind of place where we will be blessed. It is the kind of place where one can be poor in spirit, for as long as they need be. 

Until now, I thought I was rootless. I was born in California and raised all over the western side of the map: Alaska, Wyoming, Oregon, Northern California. I moved away to the Midwest but in reality I was in a microcosm of East Africa in a diverse urban settlement, a culture within cultures. Now I am back, have been here for a few days and my heart relaxes just a tiny bit as I run trails through the bark dust and green ferns, the old-growth forests pressing down on me in comfortable silence, the days hot and the nights cool. I am from the northwest, it is in my bones, I belong here and yet so many are not here. I miss them.

It is the part of being crushed that I try not to mind as much. To love and be loved means to be changed and damaged and strengthened. I feel it in my legs as I run up the small mountains that surround my parent's house, feel how my body has changed due to kids and illness and time. They are going to be stronger than they ever have before I think to myself, and I know it is true. I will run harder, and faster, and push myself because I wasn't swallowed up, because there are new mercies and new trails to be discovered this very morning. 

I am back in my hometown, and it is a very mixed bag. But underneath all the crazy-making of the past few months of anxiety and transition, I see the roots of the future spreading out. I am so poor that I can only catch a glimpse of it, in my spirit. But when I do, I see us all becoming old-growth forests for others, to seeking the stability and peace of the neighborhood, whichever ones we might be in at the moment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

five things I will miss about Minneapolis

So this is what I have been mostly been up to:

Which is why it has taken me all week to write this tiny little post. Also, I am super glad we had Ransom here, because it will forever tie us in a very real way to this city. 

 

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Hey guys. So in less than 2 months we are taking our show on the road and moving back to Portland. Our nearly three years in the exotic Midwest (I say exotic to be funny—mostly because I always thought the Midwest was terrible, like how the two coasts are supposed to think about the flyover states—but then I came here for a visit three summers ago and my mind was blown by how awesome and diverse it was) has been amazing and difficult and unbelievably refining (that is Evangelical code for: we got smashed up real good by life and it changed our character in very positive ways). Hopefully in another post I will write about the things I am excited about in Portland, but for now I need to tell you about some of the things I will really miss about Minneapolis. I picked 5, because that seemed like a bloggy sort of number and I realize we all have the attention spans of a gnat. So here they are, in no particular order:

 

 

1. The free/low-cost things

There are so many free things to do here! This is our family jam. There are awesome lakes everywhere. There is a free zoo and a conservatory (technically in St. Paul, but still only a ten minute drive away). There is the most amazing art museum I have ever been in (The Art Institute of Minneapolis) and it is all free (srsly it would take you days to see all that they have there). The public parks all have wading pools for the kids in the summer. MPLS has an amazing theater culture (second only to New York City) and if you are under 30 you can routinely see fantastic, award-winning plays for $10-15 dollars (I have seen more than a couple). There is so much culture to be found here, both the indoor and outdoor kind, and it will be very hard to give that up. 

 

2. The amazing refugee/immigrant communities

This is the original reason why I moved here, after all. It’s hard to explain how glorious it is to find these vibrant, thriving, complex non-western and non-white communities smack dab in the heart of Minnesota. I live right by a bunch of mosques, Somali malls (which literally is the cheapest/quickest way to travel to another country—they are just stall after stall selling the same assortment of gorgeous clothes/headscarves, tea sets, sandals, perfume, and henna treatments), grocery stores that sell sambusas and camel meat; everywhere I go I see people from East Africa and I don’t know what I am going to do back in Oregon. The sheer magnitude of the numbers here (some estimate 70,000 Somalis in MPLS alone) plus living in a crowded inner city means the proximity is just wonderful. I have learned so much from just being a neighbor to this community. Which brings me to . . .

 

3. My job

One of the best things that happened to me here was that I was able to have the job of my dreams. I have definitely been the White Girl Who Charges In plenty of times, and our organization very much tries to do things differently. So at their encouragement, I went a different route. I volunteered, a bunch, and eventually found myself tutoring non- and pre-literate students at the largest housing complex in our city (this particular place I had been obsessed with since day one—unofficial estimates say the 8,000 people live in one city block, most of them immigrants and refugees). True to my nature, I couldn’t help but suggest that we start an actual class catering to the students who needed the most help (level 0, they are sadly called) and then I suggested they hire me. Which they did. The wonderful thing that made this so different was that I was able to hang around long enough to sense a genuine need, and the rest of the community saw it as a need as well. I also had the unbelievable privilege of having my bosses be from East African backgrounds, and I learned so much from them. Also, the school where I taught was actually started and run by the tenants of the apartment complex themselves, which was so awesome. The mutual learning that took place there was unquestionably one of the things I will miss so much. 

 

4. The thunderstorms

They are awesome. Note: this is really the only weather-related thing I will miss. The winters here are more horrible than I can articulate. Just awful. Everyone who lives here should get mad respect (especially the people who come from warmer countries!).

 

5. My community

As is true for anyone trying to live out any kind of communal living (and that takes many different forms/levels of participation) you know how wonderful and hard it can be. Three years of being on a team with people who are different from you can change a person. We definitely had some struggles, but overcoming them has proven to be the most absolutely helpful thing that has ever happened to me. You can work with, eat with, and play with people who are very different from you. You can forgive, and be forgiven. You can make mistakes, and move forward. You can choose to see the best in others, and you can receive it when they see the best in you. For these reasons alone, being a part of this Christian community here has made the past three years more than worth it. But I also see how refreshing and encouraging it has been to be with people who are trying to live out quiet lives of simplicity and service. They also love the poor, and feel no need to explain or defend that position. They have also taught me so much about white supremacy, systemic injustice, and are neither defensive nor overly optimistic. They just love their neighbors so much. It has meant everything to me to learn from this posture—love over fear, people over programs, repentance over politics. The more I interact with Christians, the more I realize how rare these types of people are. 

 

 

So there you go. A few of the things I am already processing/grieving leaving behind. I’m not going to lie and say that this isn’t a big deal for me. In particular, leaving our organization is very difficult. Again, we are leaving on good terms (and the reasons why I will articulate in another post) but being a part of a visible, quantifiable organization has meant so much to my identity—something I could point to and say “see! I am a part of this! I am doing something good!” and I am being asked to give up all of that.

It’s hard, no lie, and quite necessary for the next season of life. I am looking forward to it, but in order to go into what's next without bringing along a ton of baggage, I am in the thick of doing the hard work of processing it all as much as I can. Which definitely includes making a list of a few of the things that made this place so awesome. Who knew it was such a treasure trove? Minneapolis will forever be in my heart. 

 

 

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