While Pouring Sugar

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I pour white sugar for my coffee, let it flow as granulated crystals;

I pack my cart full of groceries, full of clothing, full of thrills.

I sit still for tiny moments, lit by lamplight, air is stale;

I calm my sorrows in the quiet, remember, everything is well.

Everything that ails me, every trifle, bland concern;

It means nothing to the memory of widows, lost at war.

It means nothing in the oceans that see above them rockets fly;

It means nothing to the orphan dreaming terror through the night.

My ache and plague, it is impatience, it’s submission to my want;

My lonely company is ungratefulness, it’s vanity, it’s harm.

But here now, my sights are lifted, I am cleared and yes, released;

I see the world about me, smell the stenches, see their feet.

They are bloodied by the running, days of longing for some rest;

And shelters do no good, nothing there revives the dead.

I cannot touch them, though I try to, try to read their eyes and scars;

But I cannot fathom a refugee, cannot displace my own proud heart.

But here, I’ll try to open it, try to crack the door ajar;

So I can taste the sorrow, taste humanity, taste these wars.

I need to see their hope in depth, their Trinity, their peace;

I need to see their beauty marks, to sit with them, to sing.

My coffee cup is empty, and my baby, there he sleeps;

When he wakes, I pray he’ll find me, see my sorrow differently.

My doors are opened, soul enlarged, and wide horizons stretch my view;

Remember, I am mother, I am sister, I am with you.

WE ARE MOTHER.

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This morning I saw Isaiah’s smile. I saw him rise from the bed and look at me– I saw him safe.

Every morning he wakes there, every morning, smiling at his mom.

And I look at him, and I don’t know who he’ll turn out to be. I don’t know how long he’ll live or what conditions he’ll face. I don’t know what his patriotism will look like, how extreme his beliefs will be.

If you’re not a mother, maybe you don’t understand. I’m not a politician, so maybe I don’t understand.

But statistics are clear: civilians are dying every day in these wars we wage, and we lose each other in the fight and battle cry.

And my baby cries because he “bonks” his head. And her baby cries because they’re running for their lives.

But I am like the mother in Gaza, and she is like me.

In the candlelit prayers, in the rocking back and forth and in the head coverings and pixie cuts,

WE ARE MOTHER.

In hide-and-seek and at breakfast time, we gather in and round and say that we are family.

Before you call someone enemy or other, before you stomp on a grave, recall who you are and how you’ve come here.

If there is peace, let it be in the likeness of our humanity, in the likeness of our place.

Someone there is a farmer like you, a friend like you, like the father in your neighborhood.

What is the power of the simile, what transformation comes from metaphor?

It enables us to see ourselves in each other, for better or for worse.

Ask yourself who you look like.

As for me, I look like a mother, and for now, it crosses all boundaries of race, religion, status or rank; it crosses oceans and I land next to the woman who, mourning, cradles her child in her tired arms.

WE ARE MOTHER.

 

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A Lesson From Amish Country: Hearing The Buzz

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We drove to the outer edge of the Amish community and shut our radio off– it just seemed the right thing to do, entering a place that calls itself quiet and calm.

Light brown dust rose up to baptize our car, and we were covered in peace.

We passed the hay, piled instead of rolled, because here there are not machines but hands. There is not empty busyness, but solitary work.

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I’ve been here before, but I was pregnant with Eliot, so my memories are covered in a haze of exhaustion and nausea.

But this day was clear to me, and I prepared my heart for the task of experiencing another culture of people only 20 miles from the town where my in-laws live.

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I saw a beagle resting beside an old woman. She peeled vegetables, and as I got out of the car, I thought about what music I’d be listening to, doing such work. Ben Howard Pandora station? Pride and Prejudice soundtrack? Iron and Wine. Something to make me feel…still, sentimental.

But here there is no Pandora. The loudest noise is the buzz of the dozens of humming birds who gather with their friends around trees and feeders filled with bright red nectar.

How have I never noticed their buzzing?

We talked about the good weather– gentle breezes always bring people together. We ate fried gooseberry and black raspberry pies.

We saw goats herd across the yard, their voices beckoning Eliot to the fence.

Our culture does not hear stillness; we perhaps do not even recognize it, because our ears are full of celebrity gossip and Facebook updates; of bitter news rolls and blaring explitives. We hear baby cry and coo and life’s last breath, and everything in between.

Noise can be anything, and quiet can be found anywhere we want to search it out–

in the back corner of a cafe, behind the wheel of our car, in the deep of our homes where our children run and play.

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The humming birds still hum, whether we hear them or not, and God is still God, His buzzing greater than our inability to get quiet and listen.

And in the presence of this unfamiliar culture, I felt small and still, because I didn’t know any better.

So with God I feel– small, still, most certainly safe in His able hand.

May we hear His buzz as the din of our hearts grows quieter, the road narrowing as our radios switch off and we succumb to stillness.

We Are Wanderers

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A nomad wanders, finding a new home based on the changing of seasons.

I’m catching a tiny glimpse of that here– we’ve come to settle for just a month in a town that’s not our home, though we’re settled with sweet family.

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Things have indeed been stripped away, and I still feel the ache of losing a house where furniture aged with our children; where floors sagged and walls stood, adoring the life that pulsed around them.

I’m a descriptive, image-driven person, and since all I can picture of our new place is a floor plan, I’m clinging to it for dear life, arranging our furniture in its virtual rooms for perfect fit.

There’s a train track yards away from the house and we hear the boom of the train, the click of its wheels as it chugs past. And Eliot, like his cousins before him, rushes to the window or out the door to see it.

Years ago, that same track may have indeed brought wanderers to this old house where my in-laws now live. Wanderers who stayed a short while and then moved on.

We have trekked into a season of quiet rest before we dive into a totally new experience in an unknown city.

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And while many people wander for different reasons, I think we wander in search of something, that some goal shines at the end of our tunnel.

JRR Tolkien wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.”

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And King David said,

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest;

yes, I would wander far away;

I would lodge in the wilderness;

I would hurry to find a shelter

from the raging wind and tempest.”

My prayer here is that we find God, the God of the wanderer– the God who led Abram into Abraham, the God who walked Noah through the storm. Indeed, He’s faithful in all things, and indeed, He’ll restore order where it’s been lost.

The nomad clings to the promise of food for his family.

The wanderer clings to the hope of a future, secured.

And I’m clinging to the images of home fulfilled, the adventure of newness ahead that promises to never be boring or useless, but always full of all things to learn and nothing to lose.

Journeying Away

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I found a picture of Mercy on our fridge right before we left the house.
These past few days, I’ve felt Uganda– because our windows are bare and there’s stale, hot air breathing into the cracks of this place.
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Emptying a house is a somber event, for adult and child alike. I’ve thought about the bouncing echo, and while it reminds  me of God’s voice, it also brings reality to me–  here we say goodbye to a 2-year home.
We say goodbye to Arkansas’ rolling hills and loyal lakes.
We say goodbye to friends– family.
We say goodbye to dance parties in this living room, where we had Eliot’s birthday celebrations and where we labored for 4 hours before Isaiah came to us.
In a year, all this will be distant memory, I’m confident of it. And then on and on, we’ll go from there to another season, another adventure, and we’ll celebrate and mourn, constantly remembering that God is forever faithful and our adventure is His.
But here, in this moment, I’ve got to grasp what’s happening. I’m by the window that overlooks Ruth and Suzan’s doors, and I’m hearing Ben Howard.

I’ve been worrying, that my time is a little unclear;

I’ve been worrying, that I’m losing the ones I hold dear;

I’ve been worrying, that we all live our lives in the confines of fear.

All I’ve been hearing in my heart and feeling in my head is the hope, the adventure, the faithfulness.
Here, I push fear aside and we trek onward, saying goodbye to the ones I truly hold dearest.
Toward hope.
Toward newness.
Toward future.
Toward, always, the faithfulness of God, whose hand is forever on us.

The Echo

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Eliot’s room is nearly empty.

Yesterday we laid down in his bed to take a nap, and we read some books together before falling asleep.

My voice echoed off the walls of the room. It’s so strange how quickly the sound changes once you move furniture out– the furniture muffles the noise. In the empty space, voices are loud and penetrating.

I thought there, as I read to my toddler, that my soul is like a room, and it’s cluttered and crowded. There is no echo, no stillness.

But I long for it. I long to hear His voice bounce from corner to corner, His truth from wall to wall.

I long for bright light to filter in through uncovered windows and floors to be swept clean.

By this time next week, we’ll be with my in-laws, retreating for a few weeks before the big move.

We want to block out space to write and remember and dream faith-dreams.

We want room to run and play and garden.

We want mornings with mugs of steaming coffee and humid air.

We want the echoed voice of God to penetrate and move us to life. IMG_5603

Snapshots: The Morning Walk

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Nearly every morning a parade marches through our neighborhood: Ruth and her girls, Suzan and my boys, Andrea and William, Caden, and a new little one named Wendy.

Nearly every morning I text Suzan and get the boys ready, Eliot shoving yogurt into his mouth while Isaiah plays, oblivious to everything chaotic around him.

Then comes the knock and “Yoo-hoo!” at the door. Eliot runs straight for the kitchen, pants half on and sandals dangling from his feet. And Isaiah can hear her voice; he knows now what it means (aren’t babies incredible?).

He flaps his legs and flails his arms, and he baby-yells at me until I pick him up and head for the door.

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A moment later they’re off, and they walk the block for an hour or so while I sit here with my steaming coffee.

Sometimes I think that I should go on the walk, too, but there’s something too sweet, too sacred about their mornings with our neighbors. And I am content with coffee and pen and paper. With Genesis and Life-Truths that pour themselves into me in the quiet. I need to process.

Right now I must process this: we move in 4 days

“You know you’re going to miss us, right? Just don’t want you to forget!” Suzan says with a smile.

Only God knows how deep the ache.

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We found an apartment in Georgia. A 2-bed, 2-bath beauty on the 2nd floor.

The mulberries grow in tiny clusters on the tree, and I am praying for a little clustered community in that building where everyone is tight-packed and without certain privacies; that we are forced to know and care for one another.

Today is a day about neighbors, about the ones who walk my boys in the sweltering heat, about the ones we’re to meet in a month’s time.

I’d like you to pray something with me and for me, friends:

Pray that my beloved friends here would feel the love of Christ years after we’re gone, that this home pours forth kindness with all who dwell in it.

And pray for the apartment complex we’re about to enter, that peace would abound in all corners, that the mystery of Christ would cover us and call those around us into His presence…

Pray that I might worship in our new home, and that the goodness of God would seep through floor and ceiling and pour itself over my neighbors, baptizing us all in His love and mercy.

 

 

 

I’m writing “snapshots” of our time here– places we’ve frequented, people we’ve adored, experiences that have transformed us.

For more posts from the Snapshots series, click here.