27 December 2014

the pain and comfort of small

holiday movie season is the best.

they wait and release the year's best movies all at once...which, in my logical, practical mind is not the best of ideas...what are we to do the rest of the year?! best to spread the enjoyment out evenly...fairly...but in my childlike heart it is an extension of the extravagance of Christmas.  Call me gluttonous, but, I love it.

Yesterday it was the third and last installation of the Tolkien fantasy, The Hobbit.  Today the historical biopic The Imitation Game.  Not much in common with these two, but both poignant and wonderful and awful in their own ways.  
There is one poignancy in common though...one which I was not at all expecting...the lesson of appreciating/acknowledging the reality of our small-cog-ness in the big-wheel-world.

Bilbo and the code breakers both need reminded (or perhaps informed), that they are small pieces of a much larger puzzle...that they are not the only, and more importantly not the main, characters in their life adventures/discoveries/events...it is all so much more complex than their own experience of a thing...so much more to be taken into consideration...

I'm struck.  Not sure why.  But as I stop to consider the possibilities, one comes to mind on this day in particular.

I'm just a small cog, in a big wheel world, and I am SO VERY thankful.  In Tolkien's Hobbit, Bilbo's response to Gandalf's instruction on this topic is "Thank goodness!" which I echo emphatically.

Today was my first day off.  As of late I have felt the weight of the last year in new ways.  For lots of reasons, most of which I don't really understand completely, I need a break.  And that's really really really really hard for me to say.  Again, it's hard for lots of reasons I don't completely understand, but I know enough to know I need it.  And in the end, I know enough to know that I'm a small cog in a very big wheel world, and saying "I need a break" is my way of echoing Bilbo's "Thank goodness!"  It's my way of honoring God's sovereignty and power and control and relinquishing my own.  God d*@& it, it's hard.

It's difficult to write in this type of forum about this stage of my life.  It's hard to honor my mom's life and privacy while my life is so tightly woven with hers on a daily basis.  But this need for a break, the excruciatingly painful process of admitting that to myself and even more painfully to others, is my story, it's not my mom's...well, but that's not actually true, is it?  That's Gandalf's whole point...that's what Alan Turing and his team needed to learn before they could be of real service to their country...and it was excruciating.  It is my story, it's my pride being broken, my idols crashing down, but it's mom's story as well.  It affects her, it affects our whole household, and our community...it's our story.  Well, actually, it's HIS story. 

"Thank goodness!"


PS - I feel like it's dishonest to stop there when as my mind carries this thought on, I realize the irony that the awful, tragic charging, sentencing, "treatment" and death of Alan Turning and thousands of other gay people in Germany and likely elsewhere as well, because of their sexuality, was and still is probably argued "legitimate" with the same reasoning...that they are "just small cogs in a big wheel of a world"...but somehow I believe that while it is wonderful that we are but small cogs, we are wonderful small cogs and the loss of/injustice done to any one of us is done to ALL of us...it's HIS story remember? we are ALL part of the picture.

19 June 2014

jumping fountains

I drove by a scene much like this one this evening.  Kids running around in a jumping fountain...shoots of water squirting up from the ground at seemingly random intervals and in seemingly random locations.

Grief is a lot like these fountains.  I never quite know where or when it's gonna pop up...where or when it's going to gush out.  Last night at small group was one of those places and times.   I was asking the group to pray for the Muslim world in it's current state of what seems a bit like chaos from this vantage point.  I'm reading Malala's story, and my heart strings are tugged by the realities that have been her life, yes, but I don't usually weep when my heart strings are tugged by books I'm reading or articles I read online.  I think that was just the release of the flood gates.  My parents left town on tuesday for a few weeks of rest and relaxation on the west coast.  I think with their departure, my heart relaxed a bit, and so tugs on it's strings made bigger ripples than usual...to mix about 7 metaphors ;)

The group lovingly asked what was going on, as the tears continued to stream down my face as others continued to share and request prayer, etc.  I shrugged my shoulders.  I had no idea.  I've talked and thought about it since and I think it's just how grief works.  I've heard others say this is just how it is - it hits you when it hits you.  Unlike the jumping fountains though, grief does not seem to elicit the shrieks of joy that seem common in the children running around getting soaking wet, whether they were dressed for the occasion or not ;)  Alas.

There's this thing among Christians that we don't talk about.  Well, we do talk about it, but it's all in the name of spiritual growth and edification.  We talk about what "grieving well" looks like, what "suffering well" looks like.  Missionaries talk about "healthy cultural acquisition" or "good language learning technique" or "good goodbyes."  So a gold standard is set - for better or worse.  For better: they provide us a guide along the way as wisdom from those who have gone before.  For worse: they just allow us to judge one another - measuring each other against these standards.  Same with grief and suffering.  I know, because I've done it to other people.  Sizing up their emotional and spiritual life from what I perceive on the outside.  Now, I'm wishing for more grace that I've in times past given to others.  When it comes to grief,  I've decided I only know how to process feelings I'm experiencing.  It has done me no good to try to talk about things I think I should feel or think others think I should feel.  It does, on the other hand, a world of good to go get ice cream with a couple friends after I fall apart and try to figure out where that was coming from and what it was really about, and reflect on whether I'm doing what I can to engage my emotions from day to day in a healthy way.

People make off handed comments about how they think our family is or is not dealing with the current realities of mom's illness and this season of life.  Maybe you think we are putting on "happy faces" too often - which means you think there is a way our faces should look instead. Maybe you think I should cry more - maybe you think the jumping fountain effect is just a because I'm suppressing all my emotions and just need to "deal with them" more...or better.  Maybe you think when I'm at a party, I should rise to the occasion and not be so glum - it's not about me after all. The thing is, my grief seems to know no schedule or social norms, and neither does this terminal illness.  All I can say is that I think I'm not alone in the jumping fountains.

12 June 2014


I don't think this is an actual thing, but the word *looks* like it's definition.  or is it me?
like a visual onomatopoeia.
l o n g. short and TALL. complicated AND simple. jumbled.

this is what I get for not writing in far too long.

maybe it's what paradox does to you when you don't talk about it.

so, let's get that out of the way right here.

Grief AND Gratitude : the unbelievable/indescribable sadness that is ALS AND the unbelievable/indescribable gifts that are encountered along the way

Hope AND Doubt/Fear/Inattention : those squeaks that come from your heart singing when it comes upon something it longs for AND the squeaks of the brakes that is your heart backpedaling in doubt / fear of disappointment / and scramble for inattention.

Fast AND Slow : the pace of life...where did the day go? There was no time for pondering AND there was nothing on the calendar.

just to name a few.

paradox = tension...balance...walk the line...discomfort AND settle...rest...kick back...Confidence...

it's not something I particularly like, but it seems to like me.  Bundibugyo? Mundri? Hotbeds of paradox.  it's not something I'm unfamiliar with.  yet it discombobbles me every time.  but naming it, helps.  saying the words helps (which of course requires the work of coming up with the words in the first place).  describing where it's visible, helps.  the work is worth it.

{ worth it. }  the entirety of a text I just got from a friend to whom I was failing to describe my discombobulation adequately.  a response to my { I don't know...but I'm trying to pay attention }.

I often wonder about the narcissistic side of this whole blogging thing...especially when I'm not globe trotting around the world, experiencing exciting new things / people / places / cultures / smells / tastes ...and settling into life amongst them.  but, the longer I'm alive, the more I realize that this life is so very commonplace.  the things we get ourselves steeped in and convinced we're alone in - are really actually so very common.  yes, they are remarkable - worth remarking about - interesting / valuable / engaging - but also so very common - we're all human and at the core of our lives, though they may look very different on the outside, are such common processes / thoughts / loves / fears.  I think that's why I write publicly, because people tell me "me too!" and it normalizes the whole bit, for both of us.  Because in this season, telling each of you these things over an iced beverage in the humidity of a sidewalk cafe, isn't possible.  And if you want to read, you will, and if you don't, you won't.  And, like I said, for me, the work of naming it is worth it.

so here's to writing more often...

10 April 2014

it's been a while...and hope

Five and a half months, to be exact.  I last posted 10 days before leaving South Sudan.

my oh my. all that's happened since then!  it simultaneously seems like eons ago and like yesterday.  How is it that time does that...or that memory does that to time...?
6100 block of Washington ~ 2 weeks ago

Here in St. Louis, the crocuses and daffodils are poking their heads up, some already in bloom, along with the forsythia and the buds on all kinds of flowering trees lining the streets.  

Four Corners @ Des Peres & Kingsbury this morning
It's a season of hope.  In Mundri, the season of hope looks like this:

One word.  mangoes.  Just waiting to turn a hint of yellow and be knocked from the tree by hungry young hands with sticks and rocks...a dry season provision from the Lord in a time when other crops/food are scarce...the confidence in and anticipation of this turning from green to yellow, from tart to sweet, from firm to tender is such a tangible hope.

The current season of my heart is in a daily, hourly, battle for such hope as these.  My dad requested prayer from our church community last night in a congregational prayer meeting, and in his words "the Fall is overshadowing the Gospel."  Ditto.  The Gospel has shown it's Face in remarkably tangible glimpses...and to those I fight to cling.

Day by day my mom's body is breaking down in front of my very eyes.  Whatever God has for us in this...whatever wretched exercise in Hope or Faith or God knows what else - it is not for the faint hearted...and I feel faint hearted.  Then I hear the opening of Psalm 46...

[Heidi, I am y]our refuge and strength,

    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore you will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
To leave Mundri for this valley, it all feels a bit like the earth is giving way...that the mountains might just be moved into the sea...in the least the waters are roaring and the mountains are trembling...

Refuge and strength.  Refuge and strength.  Refuge.  Strength.