D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: vulnerability

The Commitment to Celebration (Book Bonanza Edition)

So, I’m not sure if you all heard or not--but I wrote a book! And it was released last Tuesday!

 

There are a lot of things I could say about this process, and I am not quite sure where to start. Of course I am grateful for the opportunity, and I am so touched by every kind word and comment, and I feel some measure of accomplishment, and I am relieved to have it out in the world. But (true to my nature) for every positive feeling there is an equal and opposite reaction: I wish publishing didn’t favor people like me (white, dominant culture), I have received criticism that is both fair and not (which def takes the wind out of my sails), and I am very wary of being put in a position of being an expert on anything.

So many of my writer friends talk about wanting to hide under the covers in the weeks post-book-release. I never understood that until just this moment (I hit a wall three days after publication and am still trying to recover). I have a vulnerability hangover, people. I am sure I will recover soon. In the meantime, my actual life of care-taking and neighborliness and activism is still just as great and as exhausting as ever. The people I am surrounded by for the most part do not care that I wrote a book (except my husband. He is very, very proud. It’s adorable).

at my book launch party, the snacks were very On Brand.

at my book launch party, the snacks were very On Brand.

 

Still, it’s both necessary and a pleasure to make a commitment to celebrate this momentous time. To that point, my friends and my readers have been amazing. I asked a few of my favorite writers/people to write down reflections they had after reading the book, specifically in a few areas:

 

1). What is your favorite unrecognized ministry?

 

2). How did you use to want to change the world? How do you view yourself now?

 

I’m going to link to all the posts right here, but I would love to hear from more of you! Please feel free to leave a comment on this post (or link to a blog).

 

Without further ado, here are some thoughts from some of my favorite people:

 

Michaela Evanow "The Ministry of Meal Making"

 

Amy Peterson "The Ministry of Reading Aloud"

 

Kevin Hargaden "We were just Sitting there Talking When . . ."

 

Christie Purifoy "The Ministry of Flowers"

 

Addie Zierman "The Small, Ordinary Ways we are Changing the World"

 

Marilyn Gardner "Small Things for the Kingdom"

 

Abby Norman "The Ministry of a Messy House"

 

Jessica Goudeau "The Ministry of Keeping Vigil"

 

Shannan Martin "The Important Poverty of Enough"

 

Stina KC "The Ministry of the YMCA"

 

Christiana Peterson "The Unrecognized Ministry of Listening"

 

Lori Harris "That Time We Thought We Assimilated"

 

Tanya Marlow "For Every Wannabe Missionary"


 

A few more links:

 

I have two separate essays about food and interacting with my refugee neighbors (both of these themes are very big in my life, obviously).

 

For Off the Page I wrote this (on despair and resilience in the face of so much being wrong in our world): Staring into the Sun. (Off the page also did an interview with me AND published an excerpt of my book! They are awesome!)

 

For Her.meneutics I wrote about my obsession with the Great British Baking Show and how it points to the importance of interdependence in a fractured world: Let Them Bake Cakes.

 

And here’s two other interviews I did: one for Sarah Quezada at A Life With Subtitles and one for Upright Magazine about Nurturing Craft in an Age of Content.

 

Here’s a link to a podcast I recorded with Matt Mooney.

 

Finally, if you are in the Portland area, make sure to come out to Powell’s on Wednesday night at 7:30 for my book reading/signing. Can you say life goals achieved???


 

WHEW.

 

Now I’m off to indulge in the ministry of coffee, baby snuggles, and reading all of the lovely and kind things so many of you have said. Thanks to all who have shared about the book and who reviewed it for Goodreads and for Amazon (keep em coming!) and who have taken pictures of it out in the wild. I am treasuring this all up, and I will never forget it.



War Photographer: Tara Livesay

Tara Livesay is my real-life hero (she will throttle me for saying that, but still--it's true). She is a killer writer, thinker, mom, missionary, midwife, and long-distance runner. I love her because she is so honest, so in the thick of everything beautiful and awful about our world, and she can be absolutely hilarious in the midst of it all. I beg of you to check out her website, where you can learn all about her fabulous family and their life in Haiti. I have been looking forward to this post for a long time, and it dropped the hammer, just like I knew it would. Tara and her family are truly people who ask the question: how do we share these stories well? Because they must be told. 

photo by Troy Livesay

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean; she doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap." Her husband looks on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: "Look, she's finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this? " The husband replies, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows." And so it is with life... What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.–Author Unknown

 

When one of the poorest countries in the world happens to be positioned a mere 700 miles from the southern tip of one of the richest countries in the world,  short-term and long-term missions abound. I am citing no source but I’d venture to guess this is the most visited, blogged about, and photographed “mission” destination on the planet earth.

 

The convenient 90-minute plane ride from Miami means an estimated 200,000 people per year come to Haiti. Many seem to think that their group or purpose or trip is a one-of-a-kind and are incredulous when they hear how frequently large groups of matching T-shirts arrive here with similar plans. Additionally, there are thousands of longer-term workers sprinkled all across the island.

 

It is common for these expats to arrive thinking of people as projects.

 

As we are all prone to do, people show up here having already decided things about Haiti. They hear the tag lines and have watched or read the mass media news stories and they build their image of the country and her people and what they need before they ever set foot on Haitian soil. Wherever they hail from, they seem to arrive having heard about vodou, poverty, danger, an earthquake, and orphans.

 

For whatever reason there is a movement among evangelical churches and faith-based organizations that markets mission trips in such a way that it casts the missionary as a hero and those on the other side are in dire need of their help. This means that in addition to what the prospective visitor has heard and decided about Haiti, they are also being told that in one or two weeks they might be able to make a significant impact.

 

For an extended time, our family has been learning and growing and being uncomfortably twisted and molded by living in this land that so many visit. During these years we’ve learned about our own pride, our own soul poverty, and our preconceived ideas. (Related: We have become cynical and skeptical and things we don’t like too.) We now better recognize the ways in which we have painted this place with a broad brush and forget that individual souls created in the image of God should not be reduced to our small-minded descriptions or looked upon as a project.

 

As a body of believers called to bring the justice of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven to earth it does little good to arrive with anything decided. Each one of us is wonderfully complex and unique and we would do well to remember that is true of everyone, everywhere. Media reports and the State Department don’t have the ability to summarize hearts of people. Churches and mission organizations should not market with the “go save them” narrative.

 

In our time here, working with and observing different organizations, we’ve had an opportunity to witness many visitors. Perhaps the marketing of short-term trips feeds the problem. When cast as the hero, you are bound to come in with an air of superiority.  That to say, at times we cringe over things said and done.  The cringing comes partially from a place of our own guilt, in knowing we once said and did disrespectful things; in knowing we probably still do sometimes.  Other times we gasp at the disdain some ‘heroes” carry with them.

 

It is not at all unusual to hear visitors botch something up they are working on and say, “Oh well, it is good enough for Haiti.” I confess that it is those people who I want to follow home with a gallon of ugly colored oil paint and an old tattered brush and walk into their kitchen to show them what my “good enough” looks like at their house.

 

On occasion our second daughter agrees to translate for teams.  One such medical team was performing minor surgeries.  One of the surgeons brought his fourteen-year-old son on the trip.  The son observed the surgeries and occasionally held a tool or handed his father something.  At one point in the week the father asked his son if he would like to do a spinal-block.  The Doctor stood nearby as his son performed the block.

 

I am certain the doctor didn’t necessarily mean harm, but when a well-trained, perfectly able physician allows his fourteen year old to stick a needle in someone’s back it says,  “This is good enough for a Haitian”.  As my daughter told me this story I wondered if the physician would appreciate a rookie shoving a needle in his child’s back.

 

The truth of the matter is this, somewhere along the line we all became convinced that we are a big deal arriving to a place or a people that need us.  Therefore, anything we do is better than nothing, right? (That doesn’t sound like Jesus to me.) This superiority leads us to think, and even say, “Well, it is good enough for them.”  Casting ourselves as the fixers and heroes and “them” as the project is troubling on many levels.

 

If we want to let the river of His justice flow through us, we have to arrive aware of how prone to superiority we are, how prejudiced we are. We must examine our motivation and presuppositions in the light.  What window am I looking through when I look at others?  What window am I seeing myself through? I know my tendency is to think I am needed. It is a difficult but necessary exercise to continually spend time asking Jesus to mercifully guide us as we attempt to walk with people in wisdom and humility.

 

God is not made manifest in our ability to “fix” or “heal” or “solve” anything.  He has not cast us as the heroes. He is made manifest in our humility and in our own need to receive healing.  When I can see my own weakness and pride and my need for grace and healing I am left in a position of having nothing to offer …

 

And you know what?

When I have nothing to offer, Jesus shows up.

Tara tries hard to learn life's lessons the first time but usually doesn't.  She is mom to a rambunctious crew of kids and is learning and working in the area of women's health/midwifery in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She writes at www.livesayhaiti.com

For more in the War Photographer series, click here.

A Vulnerable Post

I loved this post this morning (again at Jessica's blog, this time written by her friend Constance--also, is it just me or do a lot of cool people live in Texas????). And it got me thinking about all the ways I strive to NOT make myself vulnerable in my life. I can't really write about the nitty gritty details of working with refugees on the internets, for many reasons. Suffice it to say, in some of the populations I am in contact with, the amount of sadness and oppression is threatening to swallow me whole. On Sunday I cried all throughout the service, feeling so powerless. And then, of course, there was this amazing sermon on prayer and I left feeling empowered and determined to keep going.

 

Besides the emotional toll of living life with people (some of who are in desperate and tragic circumstances), sometimes I am overwhelmed by how petty I can be when it comes to giving up stuff.

 

It can be simple, like the fact that I am really careful not to cook beef whenever my Hindu friends are over (which is becoming more and more common). Or that I now mentally budget in a "hospitality" section under grocery money, for fruit and biscuits when people drop by. Or how I have to keep my apartment cleaner for the same reason (when really, I am fine with living in a certain amount of filth messiness, i.e. you can't ever see my bedroom floor). I have to grind my own spices in order to make chai the way people like it.

How I have to let go of schedules and preferences for my own daughter in the presence of others (it seems someone is always shoving something sugary in her mouth). I (sometimes) dress her in the princess-themed sweat suits that my neighbors/students love to buy her but make me cringe.

I try hard to dress modestly at all times, but sometimes I would like to waltz around in yoga pants and a tank top and call it good. I glance at fashion blogs now and then but despair when I realize 90% of fashionable clothes need to be modified to make them refugee appropriate. So I give up and wear jeans and sweatshirts all the time.

I scrimp and save and work part-time and am quite vocal about doing without and work towards being more of a giver and not such a hoarder, and then I go and sit in my neighbors apartments and silently covet the iphones they were coerced into buying but don't know how to use, the $200 water coolers that every family now inexplicably owns, marvel at their derision towards any car that doesn't look brand-new. I am jealous, sometimes, of their things, have a little pity party for myself every now and again.

 

It is amazing how small-minded I can be. How it is a constant struggle, to close myself off and live as selfishly as I want.

 

There are winds changing in our future, directions being pursued where our lives would have to change even more drastically. What would be hard for me to give up? (I already know some of the answers: coffee every morning, bi-annual trips to H&M, Mad Men). Now I am in the process of analyzing why it would be so hard for me to give up these things. And how sad it would be if these trappings kept me from bringing the kingdom of God.

 

Does anyone else think like this too? Did Lent dredge up any surprises for you?

What would be hard for you to give up?

 

PS: Tomorrow I am posting a Holy Week(end) Playlist. So stay tuned!

Powered by Squarespace. Background image by Kmayfield