Friday, May 28, 2010

mwen rele april

Last week, I spent some time with my parents and brothers in West Palm Beach while Neal was in Haiti.

It was a quiet few days, filled with walks and too much coffee, bedtimes hours past their due, help for Spanish exams, and new recipes I've been meaning to try since my cooking class.

Dad was excited to share with Carter and me a local trail he'd discovered that winds its way through a newly constructed wetland preserve. We said we'd go early, there were no cypress trees to shade the boardwalk, but even the 9:30 a.m. sun was enough to baptize Carter in his own sweat.

We saw birds. Lots of them. We'd periodically stop at the wooden posts along the way to try to identify the birds. And we were able to name a few-- the obvious ones like the anhinga and the sandhill crane, but it wasn't enough for me. After our walk, we drove to Barnes and Noble and I bought one of those bird books for amateurs.

Carter and I returned to the wetland preserve the next day, this time armed with my little green book. Carter found it to be a fun game, this finding "matches" and tempted my anger by almost throwing the book into the swamp three four times.

I thought about it. This desire to know something or someone's name.

It's not enough for me to tell you I saw a greyish bird with a freakishly long neck, and a small black bird with a red tuft on each of its wings. I had to know their respective names.

It's funny, this name game has been going on since the dawn of creation. Adam's first job (or so) given to him by the Creator was to name the animals. My husband and I are currently vetting a list of names for our baby on its way. A name assigns identity, value and individuality. It distinguishes the one from its species, from its people group and even from its family.

A name is God's way of inviting us to share in His delight of creation. 

While Neal was in Haiti, he brought me in for a visit via Skype. We started in his room and then went to the common areas of the orphanage where I practiced my bumbling Haitian Creole with Charlene and a few others. Neal introduced me to some of the orphans, and although their faces were blurred from the poor internet connection, I remembered their forms.

On the 7+ hour ride home from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa, Neal filled me in on some of their stories. He told me of the 15 year old boy he talked with on the roof whose father sent him across the street to get something right before the earthquake. The building collapsed on and killed his parents moments later. Neal told me of an eleven year old girl, one I remember from my Skype chat who was holding a baby. I thought she was the older sister. She was the mother of that baby, a former slave who was gang raped on an errand and then kicked from her home when her owners discovered the pregnancy.

Knowing the name, and the face and the story, has the power of invitation as well. 

We're invited to move beyond a (justified) feeling of hopelessness in the face of overwhelming need and numbers--there are 490,000 orphans and 300,000 child slaves in Haiti right now-- to a place of relationship and empowerment.

Knowing the name is not just an invitation to delight in the uniqueness of a wild bird, a friend's new baby, or an orphan, but to enter their worlds and affect it for change.

It's the first thing we ask each other, one of the first words a child learns and the starting point of all friendships. It's your name. It's his name. It's the power of creation and the invitation to relationship all in one.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

musings and mush, if you dare to read

Marriage changes you.

And, it's not the kind of change that happens overnight, like the last name or the new apartment.

The kind of change I'm thinking of is deeper, reaching back into the recesses of your soul and then extending forward through your personality.

It's the vocabulary changes-- "four-ish" no longer means "sometime during the hour of four o'clock." It now refers to the exact window of "3:50-4:10." It's the dietary changes-- coming to learn that you love cheesy grits with bacon, that you never really liked alfalfa sprouts, and that your mom-in-law's mac-n-cheese really does taste better.

There are political changes--the liberal Californian has learned what constitutes constructive conversation with the in-laws and what is simply downright offensive to discuss. And there are recreation changes--football is no longer just for napping, but represents an entire culture I've recently come to appreciate.

I used to fear that change for me in marriage meant losing myself. 

When I thought about change, I didn't fear losing my love for hummus or NPR; I feared losing my independent spirit, my individual identity and the spunk to hold one's ground, even to a guy whose IQ ranks much higher than hers.

Seven-ish years later, my husband has not allowed any of those real fears to be realized. When we were only married for 11 months, it was he who encouraged me to take off to Mexico to teach an English class to Mayans...for 5 weeks. He's the one who's researched opportunities for my to explore my dreams, who's bought me books on topics only I could care about, and who asks questions-- those probing kinds of questions that stick with you for weeks and push you to self-truths you wouldn't discover alone.

As a result, I've settled a bit. I don't feel so defensive over my identity anymore, realizing that the person I'm becoming is better than the person I'd be on my own. I don't always need to be understood and I don't always need to be right. In the security of my husband's love, I've traded the posture of independence for a mutual partnership and it's so much more gratifying.

All this to say, it's night number 6 that Neal's been away

and I miss him.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

you've been waiting for this one

I bet you thought it'd never happen.

That I was only capable of writing about the shadowy things lurking in the back of my mind. Things that require introspection, analyzing and soul-searching.

Well, here goes.

The first down-to-earth and ever so straight forward post:

I'd like you to pray for us next week. 

Neal, my husband, is on staff at Church at the Bay, a local nondenominational church, and he and two other pastors are traveling to Haiti this Monday, the 24th through Wednesday, the 26th. (And I was surprised when my doctor said I couldn't go.)

We're partnering with Global Orphan Project, a grassroots, non-profit relief organization that seeks to not only alleviate the suffering in individual orphans' lives, but to transform entire communities in the meantime. It's pretty exciting.

Neal, Hal Mayer (lead pastor) and Hal Mayer IV (because who doesn't love roman numerals?) will fly into Port-au-Prince and stay at Global Orphan Project's home base. They'll spend the majority of their time in a village outside of Port-au-Prince that GO Project has paired us with, taking video and pictures and meeting the indigenous leaders in the village.

The vision is for Church at the Bay to establish a long-term partnership with that village, helping meet the needs of the orphans and the community at large. 

Freaking awesome.

So, back to my original request.

Will you pray for these 3 things:

1) that Neal, Hal and Hal will be able to accomplish all they need to in the short span of 2 days

2) that there will be great communication and relationship building between our guys and the staff at Global Orphan Project, and with the Haitian nationals in our specific village

3) (here's where Wife and Friend kicks in) for the safety and health of Neal, Hal and Hal IV

That's it, guys! I'll keep you posted.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I was going to do it

I was going to write a post about Jillian Michaels, trainer for The Biggest Loser, who recently said in her interview with Women's Health, "I'm going to adopt. I can't handle doing that [pregnancy] to my body. Also, when you rescue something, it's like rescuing a part of yourself." I was going to write about how awesome I think Jillian is and how her career in physical fitness has impacted American for the better. And then I was going to tell you how disappointed I was when I heard her take on pregnancy and body image. I was going to explain how I had hoped for more from her--from this woman who counsels other women to love their bodies and selves, even when they're far from perfect. I was going to share with you my Ideal Jillian-- one who gets pregnant, goes through the 10 months healthily and models to us women how to be fit and eat right and embrace the stretch marks and weight gain and other stuff I can't write here. And then Ideal Jillian would "get her body back" within a reasonable time, all the while, making Baby the priority and measurements secondary. I'd then ask you this piercing rhetorical question, "Wouldn't American Mommies be better off with an Ideal Jillian?"  

That's what I would have written if I had decided to post on What Jillian Michaels Said About Pregnancy.

But instead, I realized that she's very. much. human.

With real fears.

Just like me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Basements and Jesus and the Ugly-Things

I've got a bright green door.
The kind of green that makes a great, big contrast with our yellow house. 

And when you open that green door (if you were expected), you'd most likely see a tidied up entryway and a dining room which leads into a kitchen with counters wiped down and then you'd see the living room, with no toys not too many toys strewn across the floor.

The guest bathroom won't have its usual potty seat attached to the toilet and the shower curtain should be pulled shut to obstruct the buckets and boats and balls that litter the bathtub floor.

What you won't see is my bedroom, with its unmade linens and laundry-still-in-baskets and you definitely won't be touring my closet or bathroom. 

Because that's the way we live.
And it's not bad, or hypocritical or full of pretense. 

We only have so much time to clean, and we prioritize what we want others to see and what we don't want others to see.

It's really okay--with our literal homes.

The problem occurs when we live like this in all of our relationships. 

When the only thing we let our close friends see are the tidied-up areas of our hearts, the places of success and happiness.

When we only allow our friends into the "guest areas"-- the ones that are presentable and under control and ready at all times for a realtor to show potential clients.

I just spent three hours with a friend who's been invited into my life, regardless of the conditions of the many rooms of my soul. The kind of friend who answers the question, "So, how's your heart?" without the obligatory superficial crap. 

This friend ever-so-boldly invited me into her own basement--the kind of human basement with cockroaches and cobwebs and things we as humans don't want to confess we own. It was with fear and pain that we walked down those steps as she shared her story with me. She brought her ugly-things into the light--the light of heart-felt confession to another human--and it wasn't easy

at all. 

Since her courageous invitation-- to know even the most regretted and broken parts of her story--I've been able to reciprocate. Today, we walked down into my basement and I showed her some of my ugly-things. Together, we flipped the light on, acknowledged the fallenness of our human condition and then turned our eyes to 

the Only Light we know. 

It's not just the confession and the invitation of another person into our brokenness that causes the life-resuscitating healing we so desperately need. 

It's the turning toward the Light of Jesus-- One who doesn't down-play our screw-ups and at the same time grants us a purity and wholeness--a freedom from shame-- we could never achieve on our own. 

Fear and shame and guilt make for stunted relationships and hearts that can only give so much. Only when we allow Jesus into our closets and bathrooms and basements 

(and he often invites another friend)  

will we discover the uninhibited freedom to love and be loved the way we were meant to. 

That's the power of the invitation. It requires much, but for those bold enough to risk it all, the rewards are immeasurable. 

Who have you invited into your basement? Is Jesus welcomed there?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

because who really needs that stuff in the dollar bin at Target, anyway?

“And what does the $33 a month cover?”
I was on the phone with the Missions pastor at Westside Church in Kansas City, trying to learn how his church meets the needs of impoverished children around the world.
“It covers food, medical care, shelter and access to education. It’s nothing that would compare with the standard of living children have in Tampa or Kansas City.
It’s nothing fancy.
Just the basics.
Because, where these children are coming from, the situations they’re in right now—
good is great.”
That phrase has stuck with me. It’s ricocheted off the corners of my mind these past few days.
What if good were great?
What if my 5 year old Rainbows were enough—they sure seem to have an eternal soul—what if I stretched them another summer, committed to replacing them later?
What if last season’s (and the seasons or two before that) Loft dresses were just fine and I could keep at bay the urge to maneuver the current fashion demands?
What if those knick-knacks and shiny Target gimmicks and certain updates for the house could wait?
What I already have is good…can I start to consider it as great?
Here’s what I know.
If my coffee get s brewed at home, and a few more meals are cooked attempted at home; if I spend less time lusting over shiny JCrew shoes  and more time watching over our finances, I might just free up some $$ we didn’t have before.
Money that could be sent to those little ones overseas who have
so. very. little.
If my current good can become great in my own eyes I might just be able to change some lives.
There are children, millions and millions of children, near and far, who will never (even be able to consider) a lifestyle that by our standards is called good. If we can recognize the pull that consumerism has on our souls, and begin to abstain, little by little, we might just break away long enough to catch a vision for The Least of These. We might just break away long enough to free up that $33 a month needed to transform
just one life
from barely-getting-by
to good.
And these children, when given the opportunity, would tell you that their good truly is great.