D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Category: Babies

Kids on the Block

Craig Greenfield knows a thing or two about kids and downward mobility. He recently shared this video with me via twitter and it made me sob my ever-loving guts out. We find ourselves in a similar situation to Craig and his family--surrounded by a shocking amount of single people, most of them mired in both economic and relational poverty. Watching this video was a transforming experience--within a moment, I saw how I had been missing all the blessings that were right in front of my eyes.  Two days after I saw this video, a neighbor asked my husband if he could come over for dinner. "You guys are the only family I know," he said, and he offered to bring over some shrimp. God's party is so good, I can't even handle it. Do me a solid and stop what you are doing for the next 20 minutes. Watch this video, and be amazed at the beauty of mutuality and vulnerability, of the spaces made available for everyone to come to the table. And then read Craig's words, born out of both experience and passion, but which are written out of a true spirit of joy. He writes like he forgot how to grow up, which makes his view of Jesus that much clearer. [vimeo 20728801 w=500 h=281]

Kids on the Block from Veritas Media Productions on Vimeo.

 

Taking a child, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

My daughter is a princess and my son is a prince. They dare to walk where the wild things are. Where police and upright citizens and people with nice shoes fear to tread.

Prince Jay, nine years old, carries a scepter – the fallen limb of a tree that still sprouts green. Princess Micky, seven and a half, is a big girl now. She wears a crown made of purple cardboard, stapled into a circle and thrust upon her knotty hair.

The Prince and Princess parade down the street, each in proud possession of one of daddy’s hands. They are almost oblivious to their subjects, the street vendors and addicts of East Hastings Street. The children hold court with tales of tomorrow’s spelling test and their class photo shoot.

Their subjects huddle in doorways and hunch in shop-fronts. They search in vain for a healthy vein. They crouch in corners and solicit the scorners. Crack, Rock, Up, Down, T3s and Oxy - whatever you need. Whatever you want.

But something happens as royalty sweeps into view. A scarred woman looks up and smiles. The forgotten princess within her reaches out to the princess passing by.

A harried man turns his head. He straightens up, suddenly more regal, an important announcement to make. The call is made, “Kids on the Block!” It echoes down the street, and town criers take up the call, “Kids on the Block!”

Needles are hidden and crack pipes are palmed. Deals are forgotten, suppressed till the Prince and Princess pass. A scuffle breaks out and then disperses. For the moment, swearing is banned. Those who dare to transgress the unwritten law of the jungle are scolded: “Shut the fuck up man. Can’t you see there’s KIDS on the block?”

Surely the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. The Prince and Princess of East Hastings Street.

//

My children have lived all their life in slums and inner cities – from Asian mega cities to the notorious Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, BC. Occasionally people pluck up the courage to verbalize their unspoken thoughts: “Is it a good idea to bring up your kids in some of the world’s worst neighborhoods?”

Some folks suggest that we must be putting our ministry before the welfare of our children. It’s an issue Nay and I have thought long and hard about, examining our motives and grappling with scripture. Of course we love our kids and we want the very best for them. But ultimately, we want them to grow up in a family where God comes first - before comfort, before affluence and even if necessary, before safety.

There was a time in the past when certain missionaries did go too far in exposing their families to danger and suffering. But now I believe we have swung back to the other extreme where for some of us, our children have become idols.

The Israelites faced this same question of allegiance and they used the safety of their children as an excuse not to obey God and enter the Promised land (Numbers 14:3). The result was 40 years in the wrong place (a safer place perhaps, but nevertheless the wrong place) and it was their children who ultimately entered the promised land anyway. But sadly without their parents.

We have learnt that as we trust God with our family we will begin to see him at work, not only in our neighborhoods, but in our own lives and the lives of our children. So here are just three of the many ways we have seen our kids blessed from living in impoverished neighborhoods:

  1. They are learning that God loves the people at the bottom of the heap.

I remember the day I met Leanne* shivering and homeless outside our church and she ended up staying with us for a while. I had to smile when, not long after she walked through our door, the kids climbed onto her lap and thrust a book into her weary face, “Can you read us a book Leanne?” You could almost see the healing taking place right before our eyes as Leanne was treated like a normal person for the first time in ages. My children treat everyone who comes into our home with the same mixture of childish impertinence and feistiness, whether they are dirty and homeless or cultured and well off (James 2:2-5).

A friend who struggled with mental illness once told me, “Never forget: everybody matters. Everybody matters, not just some people.” And I have tried to pass this beautiful piece of wisdom on to my kids, because it’s at the heart of what the Kingdom of God is all about. We try to show them by example that Jesus preached an upside-down kingdom where people others write off as worthless, have great value.

  1. They are learning the real effects of drugs and alcohol.

Why is that man lying on the ground shaking like that Daddy?” my son asked me one day. I told him the truth about the poisons that had ravaged that man’s body and mind. We don’t bother to hide most of the realities of this sad place from them. Instead we see them as a helpful life lesson.

So, rather than growing up watching the subtle endorsement of drug and alcohol abuse by celebrities on TV, my kids are learning about the real effects of drugs from our friends on the streets here, whose lives are being ravaged by drugs before our eyes. As a consequence, they harbor no illusions that drugs are fun or safe to use. Not quite the message you get growing up on a steady diet of celebrity “heroes” Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan and their jaunts in and out of prison and rehab.

  1. They are learning that the poor have something to offer.

One day a homeless woman rushed up to me as I pushed my daughter in her stroller. “These are for your daughter,” she grinned and thrust a pair of slightly used sandals into my hands. “Sank yoooou,” my then two-year old smiled up at her. My kids are growing up seeing that people marginalized by society have something beautiful to offer in God’s kingdom. They see everyone pitching in to make a community meal, they see our friend who has been on and off the street fixing our car or installing lights or working on a building project with us. They see them for who they are – not recipients of charity, but friends and family with gifts and passions and faults and struggles.

Jesus brought our attention time and time again to the poorest folks who gave so much. To Jesus they were not beneficiaries or clients. He went out of his way to make certain that we would take notice of the widow and her two mites, the prostituted woman with her bottle of perfume and the little boy with his fish sandwiches. These poor folks are stars in the gospels, examples of people of faith and generosity. Living here, we have plenty of opportunity to teach our kids those same lessons, rather than reinforce the idea that we, the rich, have everything together.

There are more blessings too numerous to mention, as well as new and different challenges. Our dream is that our kids will grow up to love and serve this Jesus who loved the poor and the marginalized.

We hope they will learn that life is not all about comfort and success as portrayed by the media. But rather about significance and love. They are surrounded by people who love and watch out for them, including other members of our missional community and neighbors who struggle with poverty and other challenges, but still find it within themselves to care for our kids.

And for any child, there could be no better place to grow up than in the midst of love.

_MG_6827 Craig Greenfield is the founder of Alongsiders International - a movement to reach the developing world's most vulnerable children (www.facebook.com/alongsiders and www.alongsiders.org). He is the author of The Urban Halo: a story of hope for orphans of the poor and he was a part of establishing the Servants Vancouver intentional community in inner city Vancouver, BC. Craig and his family are currently in a Cambodian slum in Phnom Penh (where they previously lived for 6 years). You can find Craig on twitter here.

For more information on the Downward Mobility series, click here.

For the rest of the posts in the series, click here.

you see flowers in these weeds

One of the aspects of downward mobility that hits hard is the kid issue. It comes slowly to me because this is my first child and we are figuring everything out together. She is going to be three this summer, and now suddenly she has legs that want to explore, a mind that is never quiet, hair that blows about in the breeze. But we live in a basement apartment, with not a blade of grass to call our own. On good days, when it is sunny and I have the energy and my daughter is in the mood, we walk to the parks that are closest to us and bask in the solidarity of just needing a break after that long, hard winter. On the good days, I am grateful for everything--the urban experiences, the color and verve, the lack of uniformity of any kind, the sheer amount of people walking and talking and screaming and loving and hating life. My daughter is living out the childhood I always thought so exotic, the ones I learned about on Sesame Street. She is an inner-city kid, with all the good and bad that comes along with that. So we learn slowly, both about what is so good and what is rather hard about choosing smaller, crowded spaces. We have been learning lately about the very air we breathe, and how it affects not only my own daughter, but the babies of everyone who lives in a similar situation to us. We live surrounded by 3 (yes, 3) freeways, connected to the downtown and east and west sides by a series of bridges. This means my daughter is at risk for developing childhood asthma. Poverty is a huge indicator for a number of diseases, which I always knew but was a safe and distant fact. Now it is near to me, the visions of labored breathing, cloudy lungs, a confined life. Friends of ours, doctors who are choosing their own path of downward mobility, told us about the research and showed us the air filter they bought for their own apartment.

I know we are lucky that we even have the access to this kind of knowledge, research, and appropriate medical responses. But the larger issue for me is that this is just one of the thousands of questions that run through my mind. I always start in my small, concentric circles: what does this mean for my daughter? What if my choices give my child asthma?  Then, after a day or two, the circles start to widen: what does this mean for the other children in my neighborhood? How do those parents feel about the effects their environment has on their health? What about the children that live around the world in much more toxic environments? Then, the practicalities start, whirring incessantly  Should I buy an air filter? Where can I get one second-hand? Will it really work? Can my neighbors afford air filters? And on and on it goes, about any matter of subjects.

I suppose I think that at one time I didn't have to ask so many questions, and a part of me misses that.  But through this process of learning and growing and looking down, down, down, I have been forced to confront one of the biggest lies we all believe: the illusion that we are in control of our lives. I have been shocked by how pursuing a life lived in simplicity and mutuality with my neighbors has made this apparent. I have given up a few physical things, yes: a yard, a porch, an apartment far away from pollution. But I have been asked to give up so much more of myself, of how I think things should be and go. And in return I am learning about the Father heart of God, how he sees all these questions and even more, and how his answer is always love.

 

So when we have hard days, when the guilt and fear lay it on rather thick, my daughter and I go to the thrift store and buy a magnifying glass. Because even in the miles of pavement, dandelions find their way through the cracks. And my daughter has a world to explore, to marvel at, and to be at home in. I am learning to do likewise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all who have submitted ideas for posts--I am still interested in hearing stories/tips/questions from people in a variety of situations and lifestyles in connection with the theme of downward mobility (see first post here). If you want to join the conversation please e-mail me at dlmmcsweeneys@gmail.com. 

 

Later this week, I will have an amazing guest post on kids and downward mobility. I you are anything like me, it will make you cry big fat tears at how wonderful the kingdom of God is, how there is a place for all of us. Especially the babies. 

On Mother's Day

me and my tiny, tiny, little sack of sugar. I've written a little bit about motherhood before, and I am always amazed at how this holiday continually knocks me off my feet. Motherhood isn't for sissies; remembering isn't for the faint of heart; life isn't for the easily cowed.

 

I watched a movie yesterday, one a friend recommended some time ago. I didn't know it then, but this might be the most perfect Mother's day movie I have ever seen. Pray the Devil Back to Hell shows what happens when a group of mothers got together to protest for peace during the civil war  in Liberia. The documentary chronicles how these women, Christian and Muslim alike, came together to pray, worship, and disrupt the cycles of violence. The width and depth and scope of their protest is astonishing. The personal costs were staggering. But they all got the chance to say, when their children asked them what role they played in the conflict, that they were ambassadors for peace. They did it for their children; they did it for the children of their neighbors.

 

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The scene that stood out to me was one in which the women gathered around a candle-lit vigil, praying that the president and the rebel troops would agree to come to a peace table together. You could see the small children, clinging to their mother's skirts, watching them push the candles into the dirt, the holy process of both surrendering to God in prayer while firmly believing that the world is not right. The children watched, and they were being taught every moment by their mothers, that another world is possible.

 

My own parents loved me into the kingdom of God. My mother especially, she taught me that God speaks to us, all the time. It was such a living, breathing, faith that I grew up watching, the most normal, all-encompassing spirituality. I learned that life is hard, and that beauty is to be celebrated. I watched with eyes wide open as my own mother planted her candles in the dirt, as she taught me both that things were not right, that there was always something to be hoped for. Long before I learned the words in Bible college, my mother taught me about kingdom come.

 

Now, I have my own daughter. What is she learning from me? I have some hopes, my own flames I set off in the night. That there are things more important than security, a yard to play in, friends who only look and think like us. But more than that, I want to stake my flag in both worlds at once. I want to never forget that Jesus can be found all over my neighborhood; I never want to forget that he is found in the face of my daughter.

 

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The world is not all right, and the mothers know this. Let us keep on teaching, through our words and actions, that another world is possible.

 

To my own mum, who gave me the keys to the kingdom:

thanks for teaching me, every day, what it means to hold a candle-lit vigil against the evils of our world.

 

 

my mom and my daughter. two of my greatest blessings.

 

 

Happy Mother's Day. 

call the midwife

I have long wanted to write about the television series Call the Midwife (and also the books it is based on) because to me it is far and away the best thing in pop culture we have in regards to all these issues of representation we keep talking about. So I did.

It is funny to me that I find myself writing about pop culture once or twice a month these days. I guess I like doing it because for now, I am still very committed to not blogging about my own life, and am in a season of learning from others. And it seems that every where I look there are places to learn from (both positives and negatives). I actually identify greatly with the heroine of Call the Midwife, as she bumbles about, gets disappointed, shocked, overwhelmed  but generally feels like the luckiest girl in the world to be where she is.

If you haven't seen the show, I highly recommend it (the first season is on Netflix streaming, and the second is currently free on PBS.com). Trigger warnings GALORE, however. If you (like myself) have experienced a traumatic pregnancy, or if you have any fears about pregnancy, or if you might be pregnant or possibly plan on being pregnant in the future . . . well, bring your tissues, and be prepared to peek between your fingers. It can get pretty rough and raw, but that is the reality of our world, eh?

 

image via Pinterest

Here is an excerpt from my piece:

 

 

In her book, Jennifer Worth describes a conversation she had with Sister Monica Joan, the oldest (and not always lucid) nun in the convent. Nurse Jenny asked the sister about her decades-long ministry with the poor in the East End (Sister Monica Joan grew up in an affluent aristocratic family in which she felt bored and stifled). Wondering about the underlying reasons for her work, Nurse Jenny asked Sister Monica Joan, “Was it love of people?”

"Of course no," she snapped sharply. "How can you love ignorant, brutish people whom you don't even know? Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness, and carry on working, in spite of it? One cannot love these things. One can only love God, and through his grace come to love his people."

 

 

For the rest of the article, please go to Christianity Today's Out of Ur blog.

 

What about you? Any television/movies/music/books that you think have done a good job in representation?

poetry and prophecy

It's two days before Christmas, and this will probably be my last post on the subject. So it's fitting to end with a poem that my husband wrote, his reflection on the world we live in, our new neighborhood, and Advent in general. He makes me coffee every morning, gets up with the toddler in the middle of the night, listens to my every wandering thought, and writes killer poetry. I know.  typical.

Advent

by the Maiden Name

Shootings, and sweatshops, rising regimes sometimes it feels like your ever expanding rule is nowhere to be seen, like a seed in the ground that’s yet to start a sprout you tend to sometimes circumvent instead of intervene looking around as the almond branch turned the boiling pot north and drained out the drowning lifeblood of the guiltless poor

it’s beginning to feel like the harvest is passed, summer has ended and we are not saved someone’s crying in the closet for all our ill-mannered misbehaved We’ve sown wheat, and we’ve reaped thorns For the mountains and the wilderness I’ll mourn So do not listen to your prophets, your dreamers Until we break the yoke of the shorn

Our exile has been long enough to grow a bounty that has been taken away, time and again, by country and by county Are you coming quickly? Please, tell me you’re coming with haste Some say they’re patient, some say they can wait But I’ve seen abusers go their own way, unchained and I’ve seen oppression walk the streets midday and the wolves live among the sheep without dismay while we pine away

Flannel pajamas, soot-stained script Candles in the kitchen, I remember always watching that wax drip As we sing songs of the one coming, and to the one who came And it’s all sorts of awkward, the highs and lows that we sang

and I still practice advent, even in my own home my daughter calls it a birthday cake, we say it’ a private protest against Rome but we still fail and find ourselves at the mall and department stores and a few other of places I’d tell you about, but I find it too embarrassin’ of all those who might have trouble falling asleep on Christmas eve amongst all the children, it seems the empire should be most at unease

I tried my hand at Advent Conspiracy and at Buy Nothing Christmas, But justice and peace seem to just be unpurchased items on my wish list Oh well, that’s how it goes, maybe I’ll get it next year And I sing hallelujah as I chug chug chug down the cheer in the most jolly of fashions but this can’t last, it won’t last forever so our eyes are on you, King of the broken, ruling from a manger

 

 

Nothing like reading the prophets while we think about the babe in the manger.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. 

lists

a list about sleep and the past 5 days:

  • 6= the average number of hours i have been getting this past week.
  • 10= the number of hours i need to feel non-monstrous.
  • 1=the number of nights the toddler has slept through the night.
  • 1=the number of days the toddler has taken a nap.
  • 3= the average number of cups of coffee being consumed by me.

a list of things i have received in the past week from people i have a). never met in real life or b). just met for the first time:

  • brownies
  • lip balm
  • very special chocolate
  • the most beautiful necklace in the world
  • washable markers (for the kid)
  • gorgeous clothes (for the kid)
  • an annie dillard book
  • the complete sermons of walter brueggemann
  • fair trade chocolate bars
  • hand lotion
  • corduroy book+bear (for the kid)
  • reeses peanut butter cups

and much more, actually. i sense a theme. i believe it is called "i have the nicest internet friends who know i need chocolate". also, the famous doctor jen came to visit! i was a little starstruck.

a list of pleasant children's music that both the child and i agree upon to listen to in the car:

a list of coping mechanisms, unedited:

  • crying
  • peppermint mocha creamer (don't judge, portland people)
  • call the midwife
  • re-reading harry potter and the sorcerer's stone
  • reading really old O! magazines that i got for .25 cents at the thrift store
  • walking in the leaves
  • being very honest in my prayers

 

the number of days until the husband comes home:

  • 3.5
  • but who's counting?

i would dearly love to continue in making lists but it is tedious and i don't have the brain capacity (or the luxury of a nap time) for any more. sorry.

but: here is an update for all of you who have been holding us up this week:

the husband is still in japan visiting his sister, who was in a car accident. thank you to all who have been in praying. her recovery has been nothing short of miraculous (she is awake, talking, has a sense of humor, got off her ventilator and feeding tube in record time, and is now being prepped to be moved to a rehabilitation center). i can't thank you enough for your outpouring of prayers and well-wishes, the chocolates and the phone calls. it is truly humbling to watch a miracle take place, and to see how the body of christ responds to carry those who don't have the strength.

Guest post

I'm over at Rachel Held Evan's blog today, guest posting on Women in the Bible. I picked Martha, because I have been thinking a lot about her saviour complex lately. Me and Martha gots a lot in common: we are both middle children, have more than a healthy dose of self-righteous indignation, and really really want to serve Jesus. It was fun writing this post. It hearkened just a little back to Bible college days. Also, RHE is the coolest. You can go check out the blog here.

Also, the baby turned 2 on Wednesday. I cannot believe it. We tried to do a purple hippo themed birthday party (and for some reason I became obsessed at the last minute with trying to get crafty, and made my own lace DIY crowns--which turned out to be really expensive, messy, and homely). These ghetto photo-booth shots kind of tell the whole story:

Have a great weekend, ya'll.

New Directions.

Hey guys! So . . . I updated the blog a bit. To be a bit more professional and all (many, many thanks to the hubs for helping).

With the new look comes a new slant on things as well:

I am not going to be writing on here as much.

Not like this is a big deal at all, but at Storyline I realized that I had no desire to be a big-time blogger (which, trust me, takes a LOT of work). I didn't want to build my brand or crank a bunch of posts out of my butt that I don't know anything about.

And I can't write about what is really going on in my every day life (the internets: the are rife with mean people!). All my funny stories about refugees or babies or husbands just aren't suitable for a public space.

But, I love to write. It is how I process things. I am starting to realize it is also how I come to my best epiphanies, about things both large and small. So, I am going to write--just not here.

I will be writing about the current great adventures in my life at my old blog (some of you are already privy to it--you lucky people!). If you would like to be informed of the random happenings of babies/refugees, please let me know. Even if I don't know you in real-life, I would be honored if you wanted to read along on our crazy ride. E-mail me at dlmmcsweeneys[at]gmail[dot]com for details. Seriously, don't be shy. We have some crazy things coming up in the future (a move across the country!) and we will need all the support we can get.

Secondly, I am going to work on writing a book. I don't know what this looks like. All I know is: I like to write (well, as Donald Miller says, I like to have written). What had become crystal clear is the fact that I want to write really, really well. And blogging safe and tame things (that I really don't know anything about) is not going to help me at all.

 

So, there you have it. I will still be here periodically, so feel free to check in. But the winds are changing. I know what has been given to me to do.

And I want to do it well.

Resurrection Cake

Image Hey guys. Did I tell you about Easter? It was really great. Probably the most relaxing family holiday we have had in a while. While it was sad that we weren't hosting entire bands (like the Sherwood Easter) or the entire staff of YWAM Salem, it was amazing to just sit around in the sunshine, eat some food, and watch the babies be cute.

When it comes to cooking, people never even ask me what I want to make anymore. There are too many good cooks in the kitchen (especially when the older sis is a renowned food blogger who makes things like nettle spanakopita for funsies). I am the girl who is good with butter, flour, and sugar. I am the baker.

So, with my one job to do, I went all out. I wanted to take all of Pinterest and convert it into a cake. To celebrate spring, being with family, the end of Lent--it feels too far out to say I really wanted to make this cake for Jesus, but you know what I mean.

So, I made a 5 layer purple ombre coconut cake.

For those interested in the deets, it was pretty uncomplicated. I used the martha stewart recipe for coconut cake (found here), but that recipe calls for 6-inch cake pans, and I only had 8-inchers. Plus, that recipe is not set up for the ombre-effect (it calls for baking 3 cakes and slicing them in half to create 6 layers), so I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 to fit my needs.

For the ombre effect, after I had mixed up the batter I divided the batter equally into 5 bowls using a measuring cup (tedious, but worth it). I added red and blue gel food coloring (sorry people, it has to be the gels in order to make the virbant colors), starting with a sleight hand and working up to a richer, more vibrant purple. One bowl I left free of color entirely, for the first layer. [Side note: this would have been much easier if I had just bought PURPLE food coloring. The mixing and matching took forever, and I was working frantically to get these in the oven by the time the baby woke up].

The layers were thin and only needed to bake for 15-18 minutes. Once they were cooled, I started stacking them, layering them with sprinkles of coconut and vanilla pudding instead of frosting (which I think made for a tastier cake).

Once they were all stacked, I finished it off with a very simple buttercream frosting, but you could do whatever you want.

Overall, the visual impact was great. The taste? Honestly, not my favorite cake. However, my husband and brother-in-law (who are both not cake people) said it was their most favorite cake ever. So there you have it.

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Goodbye, Purple Ombre Coconut Cake. You were good to us.

tunnel vision

I am sure I will wrap up my thoughts on the Great Lent Experiment next week, but here is what I have to say about the no-stress week: it was stressful. So it was a great one to practice prayer and rest and meditation.

I was really glad to be on spring break--the hubs and I haven't had more than one night a week together in ages--but the baby is like in one constant meltdown when she is awake (teething? or she got really used to drinking juice and watching elmo all day while sick and can't handle the return to normal life) and the weather is so so so horrible there is no place for us to go. I literally did not leave my apartment the last two days. Oh wait, I did go to Safeway once. The baby charmed everybody with her fake crying (sarcasm).

I do like reading on this blog the little tidbits I write about the baby now and again because it reminds me: nothing lasts forever. Sure, she woke up at 4:30am yesterday and never went back to sleep. That doesn't mean she will do that the rest of her life.

Sure, next week I go back to work and our horrid alternating-nights schedule starts back up--but the hubs is graduating in June and who knows what the summer (and beyond!) hold.

Sure, I accidentally dyed my hair late 1990s magenta (all I need is a pair of olive green Doc Martins and a chain necklace and it is like I am 15 again). But it will wash out (here's to counting the 28 washes).

That's why I like to write so much, I think. Because I forget about the long game, all the time. But the baby won't always be upset with the world, we won't always be busy every night, my hair won't always look atrocious. Things will go back to normal, or as normal as they ever were in our case.

Guest Blog

So I got the chance to guest blog for my new internet-friend Jessica over at her blog. She is one of the founders of this amazing non-profit called Hill Country Hill Tribers. I have heard of this organization since last year, and I am just in awe. Burmese refugees in Austin, TX, are making some of the most beautiful jewelry out there! I seriously have a girl crush on Jessica, and not just because she is awesome and enjoys spending all her free time teaching ESL classes to refugee moms. You can check out the guest blog here; it is a nice summary of my thoughts as of late.

Speaking of non-profits, one of my Bhutanese neighbors maybe/sorta wants to start her own small business. She is an amazing crochet-er (is that a word?) but many of her products would be  . . . difficult to market in Portland (she favors intense color combinations and things like TV covers from the 1960s). But she does make some killer baby turbans.

I am not rushing into anything, but I want to help in any way that I can. Here is my baby in one of the turbans:

Seriously, I need some more opinions. Do you think we could sell these in Portland? Would you buy your baby a turban?

eye twitch

First things: my new column is up. Extremely inspired by the Mike Daisy/Invisible Children debate, I decided to go ahead and look my own savior complex square in the eye. I am learning lots of things over here. God never ceases to surprise me. This is the week of giving up stress, no? So I went to a cabin in the woods with two girlfriends over the weekend. It was very cabin-y. We warmed ourselves with a wood stove. It rained. We drank coffee and watched a large, muddy brown river roll by. We took some slow jogs. We ate a lot of food. We watched Mad Men. We, all three of us, read the Hunger Games (Team Peeta 4 Life!). We had feisty and interesting conversations.

While all of the above does not necessarily sound spiritual, it was all very restful. I am unused to cabin vacations. I am used to planning tons of adventures into what little time you have off and it isn't a successful trip unless you come home exhausted from all the fun. Cabin time is different. You don't actually do anything.

I liked it. It was perfect for some times of quiet, relaxation, prayer, and reflection.

But, of course, it wasn't perfect. I am doomed, doomed I tell you when it comes to vacays. When I left on Saturday night, the baby was fine. That night, she got really sick. The next two days were filled with phone calls from the husband telling me the latest temperatures (104!) and me getting very very anxious. Like, developing-an-eye-twitch anxious.

It really was ridiculous. There was nothing I could do. The baby was surrounded by people who were watching her and taking care of her. I tried to relax but the anxiety was always there. The horrible thoughts ranged from what if the fever gets higher to my baby only wants me when she is sick to ohmygosh what if she dies in the middle of the night. Crazy thoughts, right? I think all moms get them, and it really sucks when they do.

Me and the girls stayed up late talking and then I went to bed. But I couldn't sleep, because of the aforementioned thoughts. So I got out the Common Prayer book and read the Compline prayer. I am hardly ever up late enough to warrant it, but there I was. And it was lovely. It was the perfect prayer for those who are up in the middle of the night, due to fear or anxiety or sadness. And I started to really get why liturgical prayer can be so important. Sometimes, you don't know what to say. You don't even know what you need  at 12 o clock at night, when your baby is really sick and you are so far away. But saints have been praying for many years before, and they will be praying after you as well. I joined in the prayers, and they comforted me.

I came home last night and the baby woke up feeling much better and happy to see me.

 

These rhythms and streams of the contemplative life don't come easy. But the more your life revolves around following God, the more it seems you are going to need a lot of prayer. So I am happy to be trying in my little way to be in a place where it natural and normal to live and breathe in the language of common prayers.

 

 

spring sabbath

ah, spring break. it started for me today, after i sent in my column, made an edit for another magazine, and turned in all of my grades (don't i sound fancy and grown-up?). tonight, the baby went to bed very very early. she is teething, and i do believe i witnessed my first real tantrum. but in good news, she finally has become attached to a stuffed animal (in this case a panda bear that my parents got for her when she was a garden gnome very small). When she is done with the nighttime routine (reading 3 books, singing "twinkle, twinkle" 3x, praying to Jesus), she now points to her crib, lays down, and clutches her panda tight. it is these little picturesque moments that make me so happy i could die.

so i am going to celebrate. in a couple of days me and some girls are going to a cabin on the coast (no husband or baby for 2 days--which has never been done!). i like that this is happening during the no-stress lent week. i think i will have plenty of solitude and time to pray. a nice, long sabbath.

and tonight, i celebrate in my own way. a Y/A novel by l'engle. a sip of bourbon. some chocolate. and asleep in bed by 9pm, if all goes well.

spring break! i get so crazy, right?

 

 

ps. my cousin amy just posted this picture to fb and it made my entire night:

Happy Birthday to Me

I have a long history of having an identity crisis on my birthday. The hubs asked me very politely several days ago not to do this. I agreed, if only because I have had a few too many of those lately, and could use a break. In reality, this has been a banner year for some confirmations of things (column gigs and various magazine articles and copious amounts of constructive/positive feedback). I became a real teacher. I became the mom of a toddler. I was a pretty good wife.

But none of that really matters, because that is not truly who I am.

And I couldn't tell you even if I knew: all I know is this very second. The way God likes it when I sigh and squirm and then sit quietly on my own little carpet-square of a story.

For my birthday I got 2 books (one on adoption, one on the upside down kingdom) a worship CD, and a funky necklace made by women raising money for overseas adoption. A very, very tiny part of me thought: but what about an H&M giftcard? Glittery Toms? Chocolate bon bons? (PS: this is why the hubs hates birthdays: I declare myself free from consumerism and then pout when he doesn't buy me stuff). But I realized (and I am not saying this lightly) that I really didn't want anymore stuff. Plus, it is so cute that the hubs believes me when I say I want to want less. And what we do gift, I want it to be about something more.

So thanks to my husband for believing me, and believing in me. I am excited for my 28th year, mostly because I get to spend it with him.

Oh, and this one:

 

Lent, week 2: Possessions

I knew this week wouldn't be terribly difficult. We have been trying to wean off our dependence on new "stuff", plus we are most certainly probably maybe moving in a couple of months. So getting rid of stuff is a no-brainer! And it feels so freeing. In a frenzy from reading 7, I gave away half of all of our clothes 3 weeks ago, and I don't really seem to miss very much. Plus, I want to transition to dressing like an actually adult, not just wearing a bunch of ill-fitting bargains from a thrift store. So, now I just pretend like I am packing for a trip to Europe. A couple of pairs of jeans, some Danskos and some Toms, some long sleeved black shirts and a scarf or two are all you need for the winter. It feels good to simplify.

And, as sad as it was, we got rid of a TON of books. I kept about 2 bookshelves worth, mostly non-fiction, because I realize you can't take it all with you.

As for the rest of our stuff--I will have to tackle it this week. We have been house sitting out in Clackamas which has made it a challenge to sort through our own sorry apartment.

Things that were hard this week: Baby ran out of bubble bath during day one, much to her chagrin. Baby started walking (thank you Jesus!!!!!!) this week and she only has one pair of shoes which we kept losing. I have not been clothes shopping since January (I have not even stepped inside of a thrift store) and I am starting to get grumpy about it (I am going to try and keep this up all of Lent). I love bargain hunting!

But overall, it was pretty easy. We just aren't in a position to be hoarding anything right now. Plus, I lost one of my jobs on Friday, which was a good reminder of how fragile finances can be. If we keep running a tight ship it won't be a problem, and I actually think this is a nudge from the Spirit telling me that I DO have more time now for my community.

Cheater Confession: The refugee girls I have been working with forever came over for a sleepover. Their mom asked me to buy them unmentionables, so I did. They very rarely ask for things like that, and I didn't think twice about breaking the fast. The bad part is that we went to Walmart to get the stuff, because I just don't know where to buy sweatshop free bras/underwear/socks. And you know what? Target is just as bad as Walmart (actually, they give less money away but use the same horrid labor practices) but because they have better marketing everybody goes to Target and looks up their noses at Walmart. So maybe this was my small way of rebelling? I don't know, I feel conflicted about it.

Aaaaand, just to keep it real: We went to IKEA yesterday. But only bought a kids meal. The weather is so awful (rain! slush! snow!) and we just couldn't mall walk. So we put the one pair of shoes the baby owns on (they are from China--thanks grandparents!--and they squeek) and walked the tarnation out of that child. It was very cute. And there were lots of things on sale but I wasn't even tempted.

 

Tomorrow: Week number 3! No Media Week! I am freaking out about this one!

what a lovely swedish bedroom!

March comes in like a lion.

It always feels like there is so much going on, but right now it seems especially true. We are in the weirdest place of knowing that God has something big and good and new in store for us. We just don't know exactly what that is. He keeps telling us how he wants us to live our lives (seek justice, love others, give and give and give) but he doesn't tell us the what or the where or the when. Just the why, for now. Sometimes it is enough. But usually I just want to ask all sorts of questions.

It is not good for my ego, my pride, to not have a plan in place. I want to boast, to explain, to solve the world's problems. I hear whispers like maybe I am not broken enough, maybe I am still too busy talking and not listening, maybe God really does want me to focus on love. Without it, I am a clangiest of gongs.

On Friday, I lost one of my jobs. Which is sad for me, but sadder still for all the under-served literacy students. Last Monday, the baby started walking for reals (almost 19 months now, but we will take it!) I had a slumber party with my lovely Somali girls, full of heartbreaking talks and shared confidences, and laughing and cartoons and brownies. In the next week or two, I am going to be teaching a class at Reed (for one hour, I shall say I was a Reed professor), I will turn 28, I will run my first race (a 15k).

 

It is all so, so up in the air that God must be behind it all. I am taking comfort in that fact, because it means He is near. And it means He is wanting to use us. I pray for the ears to listen, the hands and feet to obey.

 

 

Things I have googled in the past week:

a glimpse into my life, via google search terms:

Exercises to help 18-month old walk

Developmental delays-- gross motor and fine motor skills

Volunteer opportunities with refugees

World Relief Internship opportunities

Recipe with eggs, flour, and milk (and nothing else)

When is Downton Abbey season 3 out?

Easy present tense ESL communication activity

How to get rid of a raccoon in a trap

Pest Control Portland Oregon

Concussion signs in an 18-month old

 

 

As you can tell, it has been that kind of a week around here.

Food and Faith

Wow, I got an awesome response back from people who want to get in on this Lent Experiment (you can read more about it here). How exciting! It is so much better to do this type of stuff together.

Lent starts on Wednesday, and in order to prep for a week of no eating out (including coffee!) I would suggest going to the grocery store today or tomorrow. Or, you could be really hardcore and just commit to eat from your pantry/freezer! If you are going to do the fasts, think about writing it down and sharing here in the comments, so we can all be encouraged (this would be a great time to set up a blog, hint hint).

I will be posting more on Wednesday about the first week and what I plan to do and share a little how much my relationship with buying food has changed in the past year. Also: who wants to come over for coffee in the next week? I am serious.

 

On a completely different topic . . .

The baby has her 18 month appointment tomorrow and is still not walking. She has taken some steps but as a general rule she Does.Not.Want.To.Walk. A doctor friend of mine commented on her lack of calf muscles (but boy does that girl have some thigh muscles) and it looks like we are going to have to step it up in the leg exercise department. In the past week we have done everything we can to "trick" her into standing--making her stand while eating, reading books, watching Sesame Street--and we have seen a little improvement. It's hard to be in a place where I am not sure if I should be worried and what exactly I should be worried about. We should know more tomorrow, but I am nervous about the appointment. Prayers would be appreciated.

My practice of parenting: Callings

Hello! Sarah is one of my favorite internet writers, and today she is doing a Practices of Parenting Carnival (!) which sounds quite celebratory and rakish. She invited anyone and everyone to write about their own best practices of parenting, so here I am. It is always nice to have a little push in a direction for writing a post.

So, here is my practice I wanted to share with you all:

I am trying to live into God's call for my life.

Now, doesn't that so spiritual and awesome?

From a young age, I have dreamed of being an apostle, an evangelist, of living out all those crazy stories in the New Testament. I loved Jesus and I wanted everyone to know about him. I read missionary biographies extensively, and never once considered an alternative to the wandering, nomadic, Bible-preaching life.

But what happens when an fired-up young single woman missionary falls in love and gets married? And then has a baby (a preemie, high-needs baby at that)? And then gets a good job? And then, and then, and then.

One of the most difficult transitions to motherhood thus far has been the perception that my life now revolves around the baby. Which, to be fair, it totally does (the baby happens to be very, um, particular about naptimes and bedtimes and routines and all that, much to my chagrin). But just because I might be in a relatively short period of my life where I am sleep deprived and getting re-acquianted with Sesame Street characters does not mean that my earlier callings are somehow over.

I am still called to be a strong, missionary woman. But now, I have a baby on my hip.

And believe you me, some things have changed. I can't do as many crazy refugee adventures as I used to, nor do I have all the spontaneity that is often required for non-Western celebrations and events (which can last for 14 hours or MORE). It now takes much more effort, planning, and intentionality to make things work. For awhile, I taught English classes for refugee women in my apartment complex while wearing the baby in an Ergo carrier. Nowadays, that doesn't fly for the baby, so instead I invite all the neighborhood kids over for an after-school play time. It is messy, loud, chaotic--and so much fun.

While there has been a stretch of a month or two at a time where I feel like my vision becomes narrowed, thinking only about bills and how many hours I spent awake in the middle of the night and whether or not the baby will ever start walking--coming back to camp on the promises that God has given me has been vital.

This time right now, the longest/shortest time, is yet another dimension of my calling. My first calling is not negated, nor do I need to abandon it.

I think about my mom, someone who was always thirsting for God, and how I absorbed the immense importance of that relationship. My mom spent an hour every morning walking and talking to God, and my childhood was spent being taken on various adventures: to the wild islands of Alaska to work with natives, to the depths of rural Mexico, to the homeless shelters and Special Ed classrooms and Bible studies in whatever city we lived in at that moment. And because my own mother was obedient to her first calling, that of a Christ-follower, my own growing-up felt magical, exciting, infused with the excitement of bringing the kingdom.

So here I am, struggling to live out my missional life. It is hard work to beat back the trappings of Western motherhood, the isolation and perfectionism, the consumerism and the incurably inane.

And then I go back to my calling, the ones I received as a little child and a tearful teenager and a depressed young-twenty something. The calling to live for others, and not for myself. The calling to bring a kingdom of justice and love and mercy. The calling to surround myself with the least of these, lest I get too comfortable. The calling to choose to actively be a part in all that the Spirit is doing now, and to not content myself with what is easy and temporary and crowds out the voice of God.

We are trying to live out our callings over here.

What are your Practices of Parenting? Come check out the Carnival!

EmergingMummy.com

Baby update

So . . . here is something I have put off writing down:

The baby is still not walking.

Every month I tell myself it will be this month. I was sure she would be walking by Thanksgiving. And then Christmas. And then by 17 months.

When the baby was sick over the break and we took her in to see the Dr, she very calmly told me that if the baby was not  by 18 months we would "need to have a chat". This really freaked me out.

The thing is, I don't really know babies. I don't pay attention to them very much, and only have vague notions about what is age appropriate (even during her newborn days, I thought all one-year-olds could walk and speak in sentences). So stuff doesn't really worry me until we are out with other babies, and I think: Hmmmm. My baby can't do that.

This only takes up a small portion of my brain. Because the baby is learning new things every day. She is whip smart, opinionated, already into pushing boundaries (mostly related to meal times and throwing food around like it is her job). She likes to laugh, and whine dramatically, and even plays pretend. She makes up her own signs for words she can't pronounce. She is obsessed with stars, and can spot them in advertisements or books faster than I can.

But she doesn't walk. She scoots around on her knees, and tries standing every now and again, but for the most part she hasn't shown a whole lot of interest in the thing. We are starting to get to the point where it is hard to lug her 22 lb body everywhere, and I know she would be happier if she could run around.

But waiting seems to be a part of our life right now, in all things big and small. So here's to waiting with grace, and hope, and perspective on the bigger picture.

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