Thanksgiving Recap

I’m thankful I don’t blog for my job. That means I can take time off, like I’ve done for much of this fall and last summer.

Thanksgiving

 

I’m thankful I’ve written about thankfulness and Thanksgiving in the past so I can reshare those essays without straining my strained brain.

I’m thankful for every person who comes to this small space of internet.

I’m thankful for good books about thankfulness. Here are some favorites:

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. First time I read this, I didn’t like it. I was in Minnesota. Second time I read it, I could hardly read it, because I was tearing up so often. I loved it. I was in Djibouti. Point being, sometimes our reactions to books are entirely related to where we are in life.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan, because I’m so thankful for the crazy love of God.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson, because I’m thankful there are people like this in the world.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, by Krista Tippett, because I’m thankful for books that make me slow down.

Here are some past Thanksgiving-related essays by Djibouti Jones:

In NPR: Thanksgiving Ball in Djibouti

At Babble: No Thanks To You!

At Brain Child: Post-Thanksgiving Reflections of an Expatriate Mother

On the blog: 10 Thanksgivings of a Mother of Boarding School Kids

Please share some of your Thanksgiving-related links in the comments below!

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Everything’s Not Awesome

How Much Awesomeness Can We Really Handle?

Today over at A Life Overseas I write about how I don’t really want the burning bush every day, about how pretending that everything is awesome (ala The Lego Movie) is actually pretty exhausting.

burning bush

 

I have this theory that we get about one awesome story per decade. If you go to many conferences or read books and then hear the author speak or read their second book, things start to sound the same. The same stories are retold, the same lessons reexamined, the same wisdom gained. I’m guilty of this, I have a few faves, a few go-stories and go-to life lessons complete with a personal example.

Even guys like Moses and Abraham – how many awesome stories do they have? And how long did they live? I imagine that if Moses were to speak at conferences he would do an awful lot of rehashing crossing the Red Sea or the plagues. But he lived for years. Like years and years, centuries, even. Centuries of mundane days, sick days, failure, disappointment, pain, monotony. Walking in the desert. Just walking. Saw some sand. Ate some manna. Walked some more. We don’t hear much about those boring, every day days. We hear the highlights, the few and the incredible.

Click here to read the rest of How Much Awesomeness Can We Really Handle?

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Election 2016: Loving People Well

I know I said I wouldn’t say anything. I still won’t tell you who I voted for. Assume away, I can’t help that and won’t try.

But it is hard to remain silent when I watch the news. It is all happening so far away from me and I have been far away from living in the US for over a decade now. So I’ve missed a lot. Watching the news is not even close to experiencing the upheavals our nation is going through.

My Rock

 

You know how people ask: where were you on 9/11? I remember the phone call from my dad, the radio announcer, calling my husband at work. But one of my clearest memories is going to bed. I couldn’t sleep. I thought about who had perpetrated this horror. I thought about what my response should be. I started to pray for the people who planned and acted to break the heart of a nation. And I wondered: what if someone had loved Osama bin Laden well? What if someone had really loved him well, had instilled in him a respect for human life, dignity, joy, hope, sacrifice, community?

I determined that night, as I prayed, that I wanted to live a life of loving people well. Not because I thought that I might encounter, and sway, potential future terrorists but because I believe that when people are loved, they can flourish. And flourishing people don’t slaughter innocents.

What does it look like to love well? Listen to broken hearts, serve the needy, give up my tendency toward greed so that my neighbor can be clothed, welcome a stranger who needs someplace to sleep, bandage wounds, take financial and physical risks. I mean these things literally. Placing bunches of bananas near the head of a sleeping homeless man so he can wake to a feast. Giving a woman who just had a miscarriage money for the hospital. Or for drugs, how can I know? I can only know that she has no roof over her head and I have money in my wallet. Risking so much to start a school so there can be jobs and education and community. Caring for my family with zeal and creativity…

I don’t live this way very well, very often, or very consistently. I read in Job 12 this morning, “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune.” I am very much at ease in this life. I need to guard against contempt for misfortune and one of the ways I know to do that is to love people well.

During this coming presidency and even now, in the days leading to its onset on January 21, 2017, I want to love people well. On both sides of the aisle, or for all those who are not party-voters, on all sides of the aisle. There is a lot of rage, humiliation, pride, shame, shaming, silence, and shouting. Our nation has been stripped bare, all of our sins and arrogance and ignorance on display. There can be no more pretending. Our darkness is being brought into the light. It isn’t just the election, it is shootings and immigration and health insurance and marriage…

We can block freeways and burn flags and smash windows. We can boast and thump our chests. We can mock and ridicule, insult and lie. We can refuse to accept a process that may or may not have turned out in our favor. We can wait and see. We can open our mouths and scream. We can hide in silence. We can cry. We can celebrate.

But we must listen. We can find people who are not like us, both online and in real life, instead of hunkering down behind walls with people who already think like us. We can seek to understand their stories and their histories and their hopes, fears, dreams. We can empathize and not demonize. We can be humble. We can win with grace and lose with dignity. We can speak our own ideas with passionate conviction while allowing others to have different ideas. We can refuse to label or to lump people into certain categories.

This is not easy. It is exhausting, in fact. My family lives this way every day, as minorities culturally, ethnically, religiously and it challenges us all the way to the very core of our being, our identities.

I live in a divided household when it comes to elections and again, you can try to assume or guess what I mean by divided, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be wrong. And that’s what I mean. Both about the need to listen and the need to love. You might think you know my husband and I but you don’t really know all the complicated, agonized wrestlings that go into each of our decisions.

He and I need to listen to each other, to be sharpened and challenged and pushed by each other, without vitriol or spite, and then we need to love each other.

People have asked, “What do I tell my kids?” This is what I told my kids, it is what I tell them during every election cycle of every country that have lived in or love:

My hope is never in an earthly ruler. They will all fail us. My hope is on a rock that does not change like shifting shadows. My hope is on a King who does not need to campaign or be elected, who does not have term limits. My hope is on a Ruler who has the perfect balance of mercy and justice without needing electoral colleges or branches of government. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid rock I’m found, all other ground is sinking sand.

And while my hope remains firmly there, I will, in practical daily life terms, strive to love people well.

All other ground is sinking sand.

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USA Election, Djibouti-Style

I spent the morning at the US ambassador’s home in Djibouti. A large, international group watched the election news, watched school children sing, participated in a mock election, and sweat through our shirts in the warm, winter Djibouti weather.

Vote

I drank coffee and reconnected with several Djiboutian friends I haven’t seen in a long time. We talked about running and school start-ups. I met new embassy staff who are either recently arrived, or simply new to me. I met people I’ve emailed but haven’t had the privilege of meeting yet in person. It was a lovely morning (though I was quite under-dressed!).

I recalled the last election morning breakfast I had at an American ambassador’s house, back in 2008 when Obama was first elected. My kids wondered why people were emotional. I told them it was a powerful historical moment, the election of a black president. They said, “What is the big deal? Aren’t all presidents black?” They have only known black presidents, in the countries they have lived in. Brain Child and Huffington Post published the rest of the story here:

Turning Black

Regarding today, I will not comment on the election or on my personal political convictions. I will not post anything about it on FB, Twitter, Instagram, or this blog.

I will only say thank you to  Ambassador Kelly for the invite.

I enjoyed the coffee.

p.s. I will say: did you see that Minnesota elected the nation’s first Somali-American legislator? And she is a she. Rock on.

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Longing and Joy and C.S. Lewis

Thought people might enjoy some non-election related reading.

This essay was originally published in She Loves Magazine in 2013.

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

Longing and Joy

I think we are far too easily pleased when we mistake happiness for joy. When we are satisfied with candy corn and Downton Abbey and publishing success (true stories, all). Happiness is not bad but when we stop there, we are like the child making mud pies when French Silk pie is being offered.

Happiness rests in the here and now. It is achievable and leaves nothing to be wanted. Happiness comes with the obtaining of a goal, an object, a person, the passing of a pleasant hour.

Joy is, as yet, unfulfilled and contains within its raptures, a longing for more. Joy speaks of eternal things and infinite perfection and pleasures that never end, that have no commercial breaks, no negative anonymous comments, no comparing of Facebook likes.

Scanning Pinterest or Facebook, desires often stir inside me and I think: If my kitchen looked like that, I would be happy. Or, if I were published in that magazine, I would be happy. I never think those things would bring me joy, but I focus on them more than I focus on the things that do bring joy. I am far too easily pleased.

C.S Lewis also associated joy with longing. He describes joy as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”

Joy is that tender, painful something, unnamable, that stirs at the crunch of fallen leaves under foot. Wild geese honking overhead on a gray autumn day. Corn stalks bowing before a gentle warm wind. The crack of thunder and the smell of green grass after the storm. A child’s belly laughter, a baby’s warm breath on your skin.

Joy is the whispered welling up of This. This. I was made for this, I need more of this, eternally this. I call joy the longing for victory over time. It is the desire to cling madly to this space in time and the stinging impossibility of it.

Joy says this is perfect and beautiful and achingly piercing because it isn’t perfect, the beauty fades and the moment slips like water between our fingers, like tears over cheeks.

And so we long for more and the longing fills us up until we dance or cry or fall on our faces in worship and the joy breaks us and then heals us, fills us to overflowing and leaves us so empty we are gasping for more.

“…we were there on the hills…and because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more.” – C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Because joy hurts, even while it pleases, I am tempted to turn from it and dig my fingers into the mud pie. But there can be no true going back after tasting deep joy, there is only a pressing onward for more of it until the glorious day when there will be no end, no fading. There will only be an ever-increasing capacity to inhale the exquisite.

Let us refuse to be ignorant children making mud pies in a slum. Let us relentlessly pursue joy. Let us shout this declaration along with the crunching leaves and honking geese and laughing children:

We will not be too easily pleased. We will have joy.

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