Who We Are

This post is going to be short, because otherwise, it would negate it’s own point.

I’ve been ruminating on James 1:19 for several days now.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why.  If you are like me and cannot recall the exact verse according to it’s reference, I will spell it out:

“Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; ”

I will tell you that what struck me deeply about it is this:  This verse is about having a conversation, within the context of relationship.

You cannot be quick to listen if there is no one who trusts you enough to do the talking- a conversation within the context of relationship. You cannot be quick to listen if you haven’t laid the groundwork for a relationship in which honestly and vulnerability play a part in your conversation.  You cannot be slow to speak if you haven’t already listened- if you have no one who is willing to listen to you, or you have already pushed them away in your relationship.  You cannot be angry, the root of the definition of angry, if you do not understand the fullness of the situation through conversation, through relationship.

We are called to relationship, to conversation- “with every person”.  We are called to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.  To be in relationship with someone, in conversation with someone, requires a great deal of effort.  Of face time.  It’s a lot of coffee dates and dinner dates- a lot of firefly catching in backyards, tearful struggles on couches in living rooms.  We must do this.  We must. We must start talking with people and not AT them. We must learn to do it because if we can’t have a conversation without getting angry, if we can’t enter relationship, and then conversation with people who are different than us, if we can’t be willing to meet them at Starbucks and hold their hand as they cry instead of blasting them on some social media site, we surely can’t learn to love them.

And then we’ve really lost sight of who we are.

A Good Story

For the past four years that I’ve grown my garden, I’ve had to deal with Newman.

Our sub-urban neighborhood isn’t well known for it’s woodland creatures.  I had expected to contend with a few remarkably human raccoons, an occasional opossum and perhaps (gasp) a rat or two, but it wasn’t likely I’d find Bambi romping around my fish tank sized backyard, nibbling at the raspberry bushes.  So, that first year we decided to forgo the chicken wire and leave our plants unprotected.  (Well, that and we didn’t even have the extra cash for chicken wire.)

That’s when I saw Newman.  Newman is a ground hog.  He is old.  I have no idea how old, as I’m not sure the aging process of such animals, but he has had a bit of gray around his nose for as long as I’ve known him.  I’d say that makes him fairly old, no matter in what years you are counting.  He is also extremely, well, fat.  There’s no way around it.  Poor guy’s been eating the stale bagel crumbs from behind Krausers for years.  He can’t get his belly up off the curb in front without pumping his short little legs, running in place for a while before something catches and he can propel his large belly forward.  Lastly, he is incredibly slow.  I am unsure if it is because his weight slows him down, or that he just actually doesn’t care enough to hurry.  I’ve stood, looming over him as he sat contentedly munching leaves in my garden, brandishing a large broom and yelling only to have him blink his little black eyes at me, finish chewing, and meander away.

My eggplants are his favorite.  He nibbles all the leaves in a circular pattern, and he nips the flowers off of the string bean vines. The little devil has preferences.  It drives me insane.  He will not be kept out.  Cinnamon doesn’t bother him.  I think he actually enjoys the smell of toothpaste.  Every summer I have a new trick, a new barrier, a new plan for Newman’s removal, and every year that damn, fat ground hog outsmarts me- shiny purple, baby eggplants raised high in his clawed fist.

This year, I have been watching, garden hose in hand, for the appearance of Newman.  We have a big, luscious garden this year due to all the rain and I knew it would be too tempting for him to pass up.  I waited and waited.  But Newman never came.

I was oddly heart sick.  Did he die? Was he ill? Did he eat something poisonous, finally? Did the ASPCA find him and take him out to the country so he could be eaten by bobcats? As a writer, a teacher and an avid reader, all of a sudden I realized that every good story needs a conflict.  Remove the conflict, there is no story.  No hope of redemption.  No hope at all.  Newman was my conflict man.  Now he was gone, and my story was greatly affected.

The past few weeks have been pretty hard.  Illness and financial hardship, car trouble, broken appliances and leaks that seem to have no origins.  A wrestling with what parenthood looks like for us, and what it might always be. A brokenness in my spirit, a deep feeling of inadequacy and a wondering if I’ll ever really be healed from the anxiety that seems to get worse with my age.

I wish I was a deep thinker.  I wish I could have read systematic theological texts and poured over Spurgeon and Edwards and Lewis and that God grabbed hold of my heart by the strength of their words, the validity of their truth.  But no.  He had to use a stupid, fat gopher to teach me about conflict in a good story.  From the beginning, there was conflict.  There has never been a God story without conflict, in fact.  A good/God story is nothing without conflict- it doesn’t teach a lesson, it doesn’t empathize, it doesn’t carve out a secret place in your heart.  In order to have a good story, a heroic, epic, story, we need the conflict to rise above it.  We need the conflict to see around our circumstances into the truth of who we are.  We need the conflict so that we know we need Jesus. We need the maddening, the turmoil, the angst, the frustration, the sadness, the loneliness, the brokenness.  We need Newman.

I needed Newman.

That pisser showed up right as I was lamenting his profound place in my life.  Walked right passed me to take a bite out of my eggplant.  Before I threw my flip-flop at him in a tumultuous combination of rage and relief, I said a brief prayer of thanks. I am trying to be thankful for the conflict in my life that allows me to see Jesus.

I want my story to be a good one.

Don’t you?

Night Time

My daughter has night terrors.  Screaming every hour, not fully awake, not fully asleep, all night long kind of nightmares.  If I didn’t have them myself, I would have lost my mind by now.  It’s been nearly five years (save a few nights where grandparents have graciously taking a night shift) since I’ve had an uninterrupted night of sleep.

The only thing that I can do for her when these happen, is quickly pull her onto my chest, her ear pressed into my heartbeat.  My heartbeat (or her Papa’s) is the only grounding, comforting thing in times of great distress.  We’ve become used to the crushing weight on top of us, the blond hair tickling our noses as she clings like a starfish to our arms and wait for her heartbeat to slow to ours.  Sometimes it only takes once.  Sometimes it’s all night long, our arms growing weary by daybreak.

Laying there this morning, her head pressed firmly up by my throat, I thought about how much smarter she is than me.  She knows who to go to when she cannot handle what life is throwing at her- she knows to look for her parents, to find our heartbeat, to attune hers to ours.  She knows we will rescue her, protect her, shield her from harm.  She knows we will never turn her away, saying we were finally too tired to accommodate her.  She will return as many times as necessary until she gets what she needs.

I do not pursue my Father God in that way.  Still not fully believing He will rescue me, that He loves me, that He won’t turn me away.  Sometimes, I do little to attune my heart to His and then am surprised when I do not feel comforted.  How can He comfort me when I don’t spend time with Him? Don’t you need to be WITH a person in order to be comforted by them? If I were Ellie, I would have given up by now.  Believed the worst.  That this was how my life will always be, and there is no help for me.

But I do not believe that for her.  Nor does she.

That’s why she still comes with her cries and her sweaty head and her wild eyes.  She still comes and clings.

I need to do the same.

From Seed

We pranced in dulcet tones in and out of the garden covered green

With arms like wings and naked skin pressed lightly into earth

We marveled at the wonderland straining up to reach us

To catch the raindrops and sunbeams filtered through clouds and neighbors houses too close together

“Can you believe we grew this from seed?”

We whispered

Awed by the depth and breadth of the vine

Everything grows from seed.

Every breath of joy

Every twinkle of hope

Every precipice of doubt

grows from seed.

We strutted in our human form as though it was something we had done

Something extraordinary

As though we were the ones who hung our heads low to the ground and coaxed life with our very breath

“We grew this from seed!”

We proclaimed as leaves sheltered our feet and dripped dew laden webs into toes

We.

And the ground hums with life

shivers with the knowing

that everything grows from seed because He made it so.

Enough

Hey, Mama-

The one cowering over the kitchen sink pretending to put the dishes in the dishwasher while you shovel leftover kraft mac and cheese and half eaten dinosaur chicken nuggets in your mouth before your family catches you, because, you already had dinner after all and you tried really hard to only have fruit for dessert but there’s something that burns like hunger in the pit of your stomach and you’re not sure how to quell it so you stuff it down with processed powdered cheese and carbohydrates.

Yeah, you.

I see you.

And I know you’re not going to believe me right now, but I think you should know that you are enough.

You heard me.

While your face flushes as you pack your kids into your Subaru, telling your friends via text that you just need an Iced Vanilla Latte when you really do this every day– because you can go to college and get a freaking MBA while pulling all nighters-at the bar- but trying to get two children under 3 to take a nap without sticking them in the car alludes every skill set you have.

You are enough.

While you try to shuffle papers and pay the car insurance and make doctor’s appointments and kiss boo-boos and buy your kid every single thing in the dollar bins at Target if he would only stop talking to you for just ONE SECOND about what would happen if R2D2 and Wolverine met in real life.

You are enough.

When you run your kid into preschool wearing your pajamas with sleep lines on the left side of your face you couldn’t rub out on the way in the car because you overslept and now she’ll be late for school and you’ll be late for work and you didn’t even brush your teeth when all of the perfect, skinny-looking Lulu Lemon Moms wave to you after already having dropped off their children ON TIME- on their way to their group Barre class that their lawyer husbands pay for so they could look like that in yoga pants.

I see you.  And you are enough.

To the Mama who forgot all about “Show and Share” because it’s only once a week and how the hell are you supposed to remember that it was something that makes noise today and not something soft like it was last week when you are wearing two different shoes and it’s not even preschool yet for crying out loud?

I see you.  I know you feel awkward in this new skin you’re in.  I know you carry something deeper than shame  that you’re still wearing maternity jeans- four years after you last gave birth.  I know it takes you 30 minutes longer than it should to go grocery shopping or clothing shopping because you spend the last ten minutes putting back the things that YOU wanted in order to afford the things you know your family would love.  I know you cradle heads and rock bodies while on conference calls.  I know you haven’t taken a shit without an audience since before Jon Hamm became Don Draper.   I know.

I know you can’t buy so much as a new pair of underwear without thinking of what one of your little ones might need instead.  I know you don’t take baths because they feel indulgent and luxurious and both words seem to have no place in your life right now.  I know.  I know you see the Mamas at the park and read Mommy Blogs and wonder how mothers have the time to apply eyeliner in a straight line and write witty essays from the perspective of a toddler when YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO GET SOME COFFEE AND NOT CRY.

I know you feel a little lost- a little unlike yourself.  So, put down the elbow noodles. Retire the stretchy waist bands.  Wave back to the sea of hot pink bandeau tops.  Know that you’re enough. And that you’re doing a great job.

Ok?

Good talk.

Gifts

I’ve been ruminating on 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and Romans 12:6 collectively these last few days, while working my way through an entire box of ice pops, fanning myself on the couch while my kid watches How to Train your Dragon, Part Two for the twentieth time.  We’re not huge fans of summer over here at the Shannon house, but while the heat brings a certain lethargy of the body, I’ve found that it does the opposite to the creative side of my brain.

I’ve been thinking over particularly what it means to be a part of a “community”, by which I mean the people we’ve grown to love and want to encourage in our sphere of friends- circle seems too flat a word to describe who they are to us.  What our responsibility is to them and to the world at large, concerning our making up different parts of the body and bringing different gifts to the table.  And as things go, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking about it all wrong.

As a creative, my spirit is fed when it is in the “making” process.  That’s when I truly feel connected to Christ.  Whether in word or song or a meal, when I am using those gifts I feel like I’m stepping out into that realm of worship.  I’ve always, then, used this thought to support the idea that I need to be uncompromising in the “truest” representation of myself and my giftings.  This would prevent me from engaging in things that might “compromise” how I viewed myself and my gifting. I’m so self-centered, sometimes.  God has really shown me the last few months what it means to “use my gifts” and how when He told me to use them for His glory, He meant it.  Here are two major things I think He’s shown me the last few months.

1.  He gave me these gifts for OTHERS.  I have an obligation to use my gifts.  I don’t get to choose to overlook a part of my gifting just because I don’t like it or it doesn’t fit in my schedule. I cannot be afraid. I cannot hold back out of fear of failure or embarrassment.  I am part of the body, and just like the foot cannot do what the hand can do, I need to do my part so that it all works together.   This isn’t a choice, it’s a call on my life to rise.

2.  Because these gifts were given to me for His glorification and for others, my gifts have to be TRANSLATABLE.  How can I use my gifts appropriately if no one understands what I’m doing???????? If, as a worship leader I chose only songs that speak to my heart and neglected to include music that I know others value (even though I may not) I am NOT using my gifts appropriately. With gifts come responsibility.  I am responsible for others and how they enter in.  The purpose of my gift is to glorify Him and reach others.  Few will be reached if I don’t use my gifts with them in mind.

Be courageous with your gifts today.  Remind yourself that they weren’t given to you for your connection and enjoyment primarily (although that is not to be excluded).  Seek out new ways to translate your gifts to reach others.   We need each other.  The world needs what you do.

Socca to Me

I know it’s cool to be busy.  It makes everyone think how important you are.  I also know that I live in the side of the country where being busy is not just a reality, it’s a necessity.  To like, you know, afford to buy milk.  And bread.  And maybe the property taxes.  But for the last few weeks I’ve been taking note of how many books on living slower, simpler and more intentionally are flashing on folks’ kindles on the subway.  If even New Yorkers are starting to feel the sting of harried commutes and packed schedules, it’s time to reevaluate.

I wish I could just use the typical, Christian fallback excuse of what an empathetic soul I am, and that I just can’t say no to people or else I’ll feel guilty and blah.  That’s just not the case.  I say yes a lot, because the things I’m saying yes to, I REALLY want to do.  Some people are gifted from birth with one or shining gifts that they master over their lifetime- they know exactly what they’re good at, where they’re going and what God wants them to do with their lives.  Me? I feel like God hit me with a bunch of colored sprinkles of interest and a modicum of talent in each one, which makes it impossible to figure out where to invest my time and effort.  Writing? Music? Teaching? Food? Ministry? Let’s see how many I can have my fingers in before they all fall off from exhaustion.

So, here I am, this week, finger-less.  In theory.  My hands got too tired from being in five different places at once and some things just had to go.  Not without pain, serious deliberation, and grieving the loss, but that didn’t change what needed to happen in order for me to regain some sense of balance.  I had to let go of a lot of things this week that gave my heart joy- but I know it’s not the time in my life to carry them right now.  I have a young daughter.  I have a marriage going on ten years that’s worth all the investment I can put into it.  I live in the tri-state area, most likely for the rest of my life.  I was called here, placed here in one of the most expensive parts of the country which means we’ve had to be creative in order to preserve our time and energy, and money.  So, how do you live intentionally in New Jersey? Less busy? Is that even possible? We’ve done a few things that have made baby steps toward the life we want, even here.

We turned almost half of our backyard into a vegetable garden to grow our own food.  This requires that we are present to care for it, but it also gives back ten fold over the summer months when funds are low.  Our daughter adores watering and planting and harvesting and we find it a great activity we can invest in, all together.

We live communally.  We have a big house, with a lot of bedrooms.  It’s hard to make the mortgage.  It’s hard to buy dinner sometimes, truth be told.  So we opened up our home to folks who needed a soft place to land for a while.  It helps us financially a bit, and we feel like we are using the gift of this house to glorify the one who gave it to us.

My husband’s job is terrible, but the hours are great.  He sacrifices 6-8 hours a day so that he can be home by 4 p.m. EVERY EVENING.  I know what a gift this is.

I’m self-employed which means, I make my own hours.  This got a little crazy as I’m an insane work-a-holic apparently, but this week I re-evaluated my schedule to place things more in-line with the needs of our family.  I cut my commute to NYC to only one day a week this coming summer and next fall and took a part time position in the morning hours during which my kiddo will be in school. This means I’ll be home in the evenings with my family for dinner and bath time- the time I was sorely missing.  I had to back away from an opportunity for music that I have enjoyed being a part of the last two years, but it’s not the time in my life for it right now.  It made me sad but it was necessary.

Lastly, you all know how much I adore meal planning and elaborate recipes.  I’ve had to encourage myself to pursue simpler preparations during the week so I’m not spending all of this new found time in the kitchen….away from my family.  It is completely possible to make dishes/snacks that satisfy, that don’t take four hours to make.  Like this socca recipe we used this week:

socca

 

Socca is delicious and fun to make, and we modify the seasoning to our taste.  Though socca is traditionally French, we’ve been a little obsessed with Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem  lately and I couldn’t help but add an 1/8 of a tsp of za’atar to the batter.  Serve it along side a nice cucumber and tomato salad with a cooling yogurt dressing, and it’s an instant summer time meal.

We have a long way to go, but I think it’s a good start.  How do you do it? What have you done to slow down your life and still pay the bills? I’d especially love to hear from those on this side of the country so we can form some solidarity :)

Meal Planning Monster

meal planningI’m not a big planner.  Schedules are both comforting and confining.  I hate having everything planned out with no room to wiggle around.  However, when it comes to meal planning, I’m ALL OVER IT.  I love it.  I look forward to it every week.  It’s what I do on the train to and from work, what I’m doing while El is picking at a snack after school.  You’d think my online stalker relationship with Smitten Kitchen and The Healthy Home Economist is bordering unhealthy.  I’m sure I’m already flagged for suspicious activity. I just can’t help it.  And with the season of abundant produce upon us, who can blame me, really?  Everything is blooming and vibrant and EDIBLE.

My work schedule doesn’t allow me to cook dinner at the appropriate dinner-time.  I work in the evenings, mainly from 2-7.  Which means careful planning is mandatory if I don’t want my family to end up at Goodfellas three days a week.  However, I do allow for eating out twice a week- it’s just what we do.  We love to eat.  We love to explore.  We love to get out, together.  So, we budget for it and we go.  Two less dinners I have to plan.  Usually our going out nights are Tuesdays and Fridays.  Tuesdays because our local bar does a 5 dollar burger night- in which you can get fries OR a salad included….hooray! And, Fridays, because it’s payday.  Hello.  But the other nights? I make dinner ahead of time, mainly in the morning while El’s at school so things are ready to eat when I get home.

A few things I try to do every week, on Tuesday am and Friday am (I use those as prep days because there’s no pressure to make dinner since we’ll be out that night) is chop the veg for the week.  Anything for salads, greens that need to be cleaned and prepped, and make a big pot of rice and two different kinds of beans. Sometimes I’ll make salsa if I have odds and ends of tomatoes and cilantro and limes lying around (I always do).

The rice stretches all week long (I use white, basmati in case you were curious and here’s why) in salads, with rice and beans for lunches, under a curry, to make veggie burgers, you name it.  The two different types of beans are for several reasons.  One being, beans are CHEAP.  Can I get an amen.  And full of protein.  CHEAP and nutritious? Yes please.  ANNNNNND, my kid adores them.

I make white beans (navy or cannellini, whichever’s on sale) with shallots, carrots, celery, garlic a little white wine, stock and rosemary and she hoovers it like she’s never eaten before.  It’s fantastic.  And great with lamb as a side, in case you were wondering.  I also generally make a big pot of cuban black beans, or red beans- something fragrant and spicy and a pot of french lentils for wilted spinach salads with a lemon-dijon dressing I put on everything.  I mean everything.

With all the veg chopped ( delivered by Door to Door Organics, thank you very much.  Holy time saver, Batman) and rice and beans to choose from made, all I have to do when I get home is throw a piece of fish in the oven or poach an egg or on the very rare occasion we cook red meat at home, toss a steak on the grill.

Sometimes I wish I could just meal plan for other people.  Is that a thing? For now, hope this is helpful for a few working Mamas like myself who are just trying to get by without feeding our kids something they have to unwrap. Here’s a little recipe we’ll be having tonight for dinner.

Lentil Salad with Roasted Beets, Oranges and Melted Leeks

1 cup french green lentils, cooked

2 beets, roasted and sliced thinly

2 valencia oranges, segmented

1 leek

1 cup fennel, sliced thinly and raw

1 handful fresh dill

1 knob of goat cheese, or sprinkle of feta (optional for the vegans/dairy-free folk)

Sautee the leek, thinly sliced in ghee or EVOO until wilted and set aside.

Toss all ingredients together, with vinagrette.  Will keep in fridge for 2-3 days.

Lemon-Dijon Vinagrette

juice from 2 lemons

1 TBS Maille Dijon Mustard

1 TSP honey

1 TSP Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 Cup EVOO

S&P, to taste

History

maudes bowl

I’m not very sentimental.  I know.  It shocks even me considering that I’m fairly emotional and I always assumed emotion begot sentimentality; but if there be a dichotomy to be had, I will find one and do my best to embody it.

I never made a baby book for my beloved child.  I have no recollection of what she wore the first week of her life.  My mom, kept the empty envelope of baby oatmeal and plastered it inside of a photo album.  I’m lucky there was Instagram, or there would be no proof Ellie actually existed.  (Aside from her toys ALL over my backyard).  I just don’t think in terms of memory-keeping.  I hate clutter.  Life is to be lived.  And then moved on from.

But, lately, there has been something rising up inside of me like dough.  Up and out of the bowl.  The older I get, the more I wonder about the people I am related to, that came before me.  The more I realize how our history actually matters. I was brought up in a fairly unique situation considering my ancestral roots were only blocks away.  In fact, I lived at the very top of a street bearing my last name.  My great uncle died in combat in Normandy, and having been brought up in the same town in which I was raised, when they structured the development they gave his name to two streets: John Place, and Vanderberg Place.  The church in town also bears his name beneath a stained glass window, honoring the fallen troops. I never knew it to be weird, that my family name graced the corners of our town.

My Great-Grandmother, Maude, raised her boys in the same town I grew up in.  Three of her own, and one she adopted by default because he was orphaned and just, kept hanging around.  I heard that that was just the kind of woman she was.  Her heart as large as her hands- big, farming hands.  From what I know of her, she had a low dark brown bun, was both gentle and firm and her pie crust could make grown men cry.  When my Aunt died (her granddaughter) she left me her white bowl, for rising dough.  I wonder sometimes if she’s the reason my heart breaks for little ones without parents, and why the kitchen always offers me a peace hard to find anywhere else.

My Aunt went to seminary for her Masters in Divinity before my home church was even thinking about the fact that perhaps maybe women had something to say about Jesus, after all.  She went on to become an ordained Presbyterian minister.  She’d send me books every year, and when she couldn’t afford to send them from Texas, suggestions.  The Chronicles of Narnia and the Anne of Green Gables series were all her doing- they were the ones that shaped me.  She challenged me theologically- she made it so I knew that it was safe and good and right for women to use words like, “hermeneutics” and “eschatology”.  She gave wheels to my thoughts, when I thought they had no way to get to where they wanted to go.

I walk downtown often, still.  The little downtown where my Grandpa raised his family.  Where he worked as police chief and took me to breakfast at the diner, where he’d always put ketchup on his eggs and wink when my nose would scrunch up in disgust.  It was an old war habit, he said. Where I would spin and spin at the counter and he would say, “Tickle tickle on the knee, if you laugh you don’t love me,” and I would try to hold it in until my lungs burst in laughter and his eyes would twinkle and whisper that he knew I loved him anyway. I walk the same street that I did at twelve, and at five, and at two.  The same street my Dad learned how to walk on.  The same street my grandpa learned how to walk on when it was all grass and field and devil’s hole was an actual swimming pond instead of a puddle.  I wonder what his father thought of this place when he first saw it, coming from the Netherlands.  All the Vanderberg men were lanky, with dark blue eyes.  I wonder what he would think of it now.  Of the fact that were still here.

I wonder if history is any indicator of what is to come.  My daughter now runs up and down the street in the town where my family has rooted itself.  She is the fifth generation to sniff the daffodils along the river’s edge.  I’m not sure what it means, but I’m sure it means something.

No News Day

My child is cuddled up on the couch with a steaming cup of milk with vanilla and a croissant as I sip my coffee slowly.

The lunches have already been made, lined up on the counter like little reluctant soldiers, sagging slightly in the middles after 9 months of use.  It is the first time in months there is no flashing headlines across the bottom of our screen to the tune of news anchors sing-song voices.  I am not watching the news today.

Not out of ignorance, defiance or anger. I know.  I know about Berundi and Nepal and Baltimore.  I know about the executions in North Korea and Indonesia.  Part of being a key-holder- a follower of Christ- requires the knowledge of His planet, His people.  We are commanded to love- to love our neighbor, and our enemy.  How do you go about that without knowing first who they are?  What they are doing?

I am not closing my eyes to shut out their stories.  The images are painted on the lids of my eyes.  It’s this thing I’ve been both blessed and cursed with since I was born- empathy is not strong enough of a word to describe walking into a room and feeling what everyone else is, all at the same time.  I feel the growing panic of the young mom watching her son play too closely to edge of the train track.  I feel the joy/despair/longing/concern/apathy of crowds.  Being a teacher made me a student of body language, but this thing, this ability to feel things, has always been something other.  Something, mine.  Something, utterly consuming and often exhausting.

So, the morning feature of the mother searching for days through the earthquake rubble for her only child has looped over and over in my body until it broke wide and open.  The idea of an elderly couple being unable to receive life sustaining medication because their neighborhood drugstore is burning.  The thought that I’m sure their souls are marred by the smoke and the realization that the fight they thought they fought so long ago so their grandbabies didn’t have to is still not over. The young men who have had enough of being unfairly treated.  Those trying to be instruments of peace but their uniform visually unites them with negative connotations- those trying to protect the ones who remain.  The despair one feels when it becomes apparent that there are a great majority of those that by their words and by their actions convey that certain lives, simply, don’t matter. The last flashes before death is imminent at the end of a gun or a club, for believing in Jesus or justice or freedom or all.  They are weighing so heavy today that I could hardly sleep.  Hardly drag my feet off the hardwood floor to fall onto my knees.

Today, I am praying each town, each country, each name I know and don’t know.  They fall with the tears down my face into the earth where I’ll plant seeds in the ground, making holes to place my hope and trust.  Praying it takes root like the plants.  Praying for us humans that we remember who we are and why we’re important.  Praying we remember our covenant. Praying for wisdom.  May your heart be moved by the crying out of our neighbors, our enemies.  We are to love them both. Let’s ask Him how, together.