Sunday, April 21, 2013

my teachers these days: a book, two blogs and some kids.

the kids.  get it?

I'm currently in SE Asia and while there are some challenges to being here with two toddlers, there is also a lot that is, as my son would say, "pretty fantastic".  Like being able to take them to the zoos for a total of $3.  My son thinks elephant-riding is normal.  My daughter roars like the tigers she has seen pacing in cages (yes, sad).  My kids really love animals–they get it from their dad.  It's pretty special to be able to visit some pretty cool animals for 1/30th of the cost it would be at home.  Did I mention we also have access to some of the best food in the world for a few dollars a night?  Oh, and kind, smiling and crazy-child excusing people everywhere?   Yes, that too.

I thought I'd share a few things that are stirring my heart this days: giving me new ways to process, new concepts through which to articulate and some new reasons to just stop, settle down a bit and be aware and grateful. 

Thanks to D. L. Mayfield's recommendation, my husband bought me copy of Katherine Boo's "Beyond the Beautiful Forevers" for my birthday.  And I gobbled it all up.  I got lost in the Mumbai slum community she writes about every spare moment I had.  (I'm currently house-sharing with a family who also has two small children, so spare moments are few.)  Boo digs far beneath the colourful sarees and extreme poverty, looking at the slum's living and dying in the larger context of global economic struggle, with all the corruption, fear and self-preservation that it brings.  If you dare read this story you will meet complex (real) people who labour and love, fight and reconcile, despair and celebrate and ultimately survive as well as their environment will allow.  Boo calls her work "narrative non-fiction" as she spent years with this community, interviewing, documenting, watching, asking and writing–and while the people she wrote about knew her story wouldn't be pretty, they still let her in.  That is why what she writes is true, and we need much more truth communicated in media than we are used to.

I stumbled upon a blogger called "Jess in Process" -  she's a writer and mother who recently lost her 4 year old, Henry, to brain cancer.  She is vulnerably and publicly processing through her grief and ache and inexhaustible loss by writing on her blog: about the world and senseless suffering and how God can somehow, without pre-ordaining anything evil, still bring meaning and purpose through it.  I appreciate the work of Ivy league educated theologians and how they shape the way we see God and the world, but sometimes I more appreciate the "back-door theology" of mothers who suffer great loss, walk with God through it, and let us in on those conversations.

Another blog that I've been following closely for the past year is a real-life friend of mine, Michaela Evanow.  Michaela and her husband live in Vancouver, Canada, and she's one of those people who sees the world as if its all lit up. We traveled for a year in community together when we were both younger and single-er, drinking chai on back streets and designing tailor-made punjabis, laughing and crying lots.  She's passionate and fiery, a lover of tastes and textures and colours and sounds, her writing brings you in close whether she is sharing a new recipe or writing about her baby girl, Florence Marigold.  When Florence was 3 1/2 months old Michaela noticed she wasn't meeting some milestones and a fairly routine check-up resulted in Florence being given the diagnosis of SMA, Type 1.  Florence turned one in March and is thriving.  I was able to spend a few hours with her and Michaela this December.  Florence is one of those soul-searching children, with eyes that will change you if you look at them for too long; she is a little girl who knows a lot.

Michaela has been on a journey that I don't know anyone else on.  And she writes about it.  She is living in the dynamic, painful tension of trusting that it's God's will to heal Florence and asking for and expecting that healing to come daily while also loving Florence exactly how she is, noticing and celebrating the small victories although her experiences are nothing like those of moms around her.  And while Florence is completely dependent on Michaela, lacking the strength to do very much at all for herself, as I've read Michaela's words this year I can see that Florence is saving her.  Florence's condition has opened Michaela's heart up wide, to depths I can't imagine, and Michaela writes with brutal honesty: about her dreams, what she feels God speaking, her darkest fears, and the sunlight and shadows that make up her every day.  Florence is saving Michaela because Michaela is "loving past the pain and in the weakest places".  And that's what makes us all more fully who we are meant to be.

This is a week full of suffering, as most of the world's weeks have always been since she was born.  Bombs rip through our bodies and sense of safety, devastating so many families in so many parts of the world.  Mothers weep for children with blood on their bodies and blood on their hands.  The world is a dreadful place most of the time, and somehow it's still glorious and worth risking to love.  I write from a privileged place with my basic needs met and also my deeper needs of community, love, acceptance and space to create and give of myself.  My children are alive and close to me, my husband is faithful and caring, always non-violent in word and action.  These are things that I cannot take for granted, not when mothers weep in Baghdad, in Boston and Somalia, in Texas and South Africa, in Burma, Afghanistan and every other country on this raging planet.  It's a few months later, but I stand by what I wrote after the December mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  My hope is not in more guns (and not even in less guns), not in border control or religious uniformity.  My hope is in a Mother's love that will save the world.


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