The two men carefully bend sticks and tie them in place. Held together with scraps of clothing and rags, the sticks create a frame for a tent in the midst of the Gourougou Mountain. Random pieces of tarp tied onto the frame transform into a shelter. Meticulously, with patience to execute it well and urgency because their well-being depended on it, they turn nature’s leftovers and human leftovers into a home. The Land Between, a documentary we’re showing at Highland on Sunday as part of our Moroccan partnership, tells the stories of those who are stuck between the home they have fled and a future they cannot grasp.
I sat in my office as I previewed the film and I marveled at their survival skills, ingenuity, and teamwork. Then I marveled at their suffering and resiliency when the journalist takes us back a few days later to see the bare bones of the shelter. The sticks stand but the tarps so carefully tied have vanished. The men share the story of how the authorities chased them out of the camp and burned all their things.
The journalist leaves the camera unnervingly on the framework of sticks. Hollow. Empty. Bare to the bone. It tells of the death chasing after them AND the life enduring despite it. Continue reading
I feel it again on the car ride home from daycare. My daily worries, headaches, and inconveniences are pierced and shattered by word about the state of my fellow humans living around this world we share. The stories. The audible cries of the hurting.
I pause. Not to give thanks for my privileged life, but to walk a mile in the shoes of another in prayer. Seemingly inconsequential in the face of another’s impending death in war. Seemingly not enough in the face of another’s life-altering grief. Six-degrees-of-separation suggests the suffering of another is never far from me. Scripture suggests it must always be within me.
I pause and I walk next to each of them in prayer… Continue reading
She stood still as a statue with her baby in her arms. I breezed by her as I walked through the gate to plop my youngest down around the other babies. Before heading out the door, I paused as the daycare workers sought to comfort the mother cradling her ten month old.
“First day?” I ask. Continue reading
Three peers in ministry.
One small office.
Huddled together, her smile and the light in her eyes gave away the surprising news. After over three years, it was finally here – a positive pregnancy test. I don’t remember what was said, but like a film clip, I remember it in the silence – wide-eyed disbelief, stunned faces, tears streaming down our cheeks.
Three peers in ministry.
Three women pregnant at the same time. Continue reading
Two years ago, I sat in our nursery and began the work of separating clothes into piles. I sorted each item by size and season. Holding up pants with the size “2T,” I marveled at the idea that he would one day be that big. They were pass-downs from a family whose three boys had outgrown them. The printed mock-turtlenecks went into drawers but never ended up getting much use. But everything else has now gone through the wash many times as they have adorned both boys. Out of all the items, my favorites are the ones hanging in the closet.
This morning, I balance our 11-month-old on my hip and open wide the closet doors to survey the overalls. I run my fingers through the many different pairs. Navy. Jean. Khacki. Red. Patterned. Plain. They have endured high chair debris, washing machine cycles, and changing table wrestling. A family’s history hangs on the hangers. Continue reading
Even now, the ashes cling underneath my thumbnail. When you have the responsibility to spread the ashes on the heads of your congregation, the darkness has a way of seeping into the crevices and indentations where nail meets skin.
Person after person comes before us and we smudge the ashes on their forehead and we visualize the reality that this church will bury each one of these precious, beloved souls. A young girl in leggings. A man in all his strength. My own father. It’s all too much to bear in that moment. Should we let it truly sink in, each one of us as ministers would be a pool of tears before the congregation. Continue reading
The babysitter is secured and the plans are coming together to celebrate a friend’s birthday tonight. We’ll gather at one of his favorite restaurants and retell our memories. We will recount the small things that once seemed inconsequential. But in the absence of his physical body with us, they have become everything.
When I let my mind wander, I can get lost in the memories. The moments we shared. The adventures. His dreams. His smile. The times he was fully alive.
For a moment, I am with him. All that has been lost returns. All that is fractured is made whole. Continue reading
Snow blankets the streets. I hold him close to me as I dance him around the rug, dodging Legos and Little People which litter the room. Cheek pressed against his cheek, I hum and try to quiet the stubbornness that fights sleep within him.
Out the window, beyond the falling snow, a house nearby smolders from an early morning fire. News reports tell that the fire ended a man’s life. Time stands still and I imagine his mother standing next to his crib, dancing around the room as she feels the breath rise and fall from his chest. Where is she now…the day he breathed his last? Continue reading
The cries pierce my sleep. I wait it out a few moments and listen to determine if they are the cries of a momentary disturbance or if they are the cries of nighttime need. I walk to the room and rub his back. His arm reaches around to touch mine. Finding my hand, he wraps his fingers around mine. The cries cease and in the silence, he holds on and finds his calm again.
Eight months old, I am still his refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. One of the greatest privileges of parenthood is getting to be the peace my little one needs – to be the arms that make everything alright. During the early months when the needs are concrete and specific (food, diaper, sleep), parenthood means being the one to anticipate, notice, and satisfy.
When the oldest wakes now, I venture down to his room the same I did when he was young. Now, though, there are some night terrors where I struggle to break him out of the crying. I hold him close in his little bed and try to whisper those words, ancient and sacred, “Do not fear, I am here with you.”
And yet the words and my presence do not hold the magic power they once did. Right before my eyes, my oldest is growing up. The chubby cheeks are dissipating and his physique is more “boy” than toddler. As his vocabulary grows, he is becoming more and more aware of his surrounding. He is beginning to taste the Great Sadness Continue reading
Pottery Barn catalogs pile up the stress as the Christmas gift list is still blank. The instagrammed Christmas tree selfies on my newsfeed create jealousy in me as our house is still tree-less. Five days into December and the days seem to be speeding by like a train on the tracks…if I slow down long enough to let my eyes follow one train car, I will feel the whiplash when I see that ten others pass within mere seconds.
In the silence of the morning, I wait. I wait for my mind to settle. I wait for Christmas to sink into this heart of mine. I wait… only to realize that the void of the tangible Christmas items points out the void of the best of Christmas’ intangible gifts…the coziness of a decorated home, the peace of lingering conversation, the magic of the gifting season.
The void echoes and calls out to be filled. Continue reading