Let’s Go Flaneuring in Dublin, Ireland

Today’s flaneuring essay comes from Dublin, Ireland. Take a walk with Karen Huber through her neighborhood. I’m only a little jealous of her trees and leaves. And I used to have a dog named Cocoa, too! (Some have asked, yes, I’m still accepting essays so take a walk and tell us what you see.)

I’m used to looking down at my feet. This is part introversion and partly to guard against trips or stumbles. It also ensures I don’t have that split second panic attack when someone crosses my path. Do I look them in the eye? Do I smile, nod, say hello? I’d rather just keep my head down, be about my business, complete my journey home.

Today, though, I look up. It is sunny, cool. October at its finest.

photo 2

The leafy suburbs of the American Midwest are not so unlike the one I walk through now. Our town is nestled into the valley along the River Liffey. We are all hills and trees, leaves pressed down by feet and rain. The narrow sidewalks are separated from the narrow road by a narrow patch of grass. You can set your clock by these sidewalks: during the school rush, cars are lined along them, parked on top of them. By 9:10 they are peacefully empty. The half dozen schools in this 2km area are now in session.

On blue-sky days, humans are more prone to occupy these footpaths. Women in puffy vests and oversized sunglasses walk with swinging arms. Couples with babies in buggies keep the older children by their sides. An elderly man with a newsboy cap walks towards me, not looking up, maintaining a slow pace. He is the epitome of an Irish postcard. Fathers ride bikes with a son or daughter sitting along the cross bar (I’m not particularly convinced this is a safe means of transport).

Our island economy is well into a housing boom now, but vestiges of the Celtic Tiger’s bust remain: an overgrown field decorated with a disintegrated for sale sign, only the top edge of which still hangs, hidden by brush. Graffiti is no oddity here.

Waist-high walls guard thin patches of lawn making up the front gardens. Painted concrete, most are an off-white stucco, though a handful stand out in varying shades of peach and tan, distinguishing them from their neighbours. Half the houses have gates to their tiny driveways. Wrought iron, new shiny wood, old wire. These semi-detached homes are nearly identical, apart from the gate, signaling a variance in personality.

The cemetery is hundreds of years old, divided into two sections: the modern and the ancient. More recent headstones touch the foot of the next grave down. I imagine their bodies sleeping eternally, like a bed filled with children. Head to toe, head to toe. There is hardly any room; Irish land is limited.


Cocoa the dog pulls the lead, sniffing everything, everywhere. We are past the cemetery now, past the neighborhoods, past the gorgeous, large Georgian house which sits atop the hill, overlooking the valley below. We find a trail there, leading to a clearing where we can see the steeple of the protestant church, the clock on the façade of a village building, the estates on the other side of the river, the trees in their colour.

Walking these roads, I sometimes feel like a sell-out. We are safely removed from urban life, quiet and protected on this Friday morning. I had hoped we’d be braver, move our brood into the hood, where children still play football in the middle of busy roads, but here we are. And I can’t deny it: our work is both here and there, in the suburbs as much as in the city.

Two women are headed my way as Cocoa and I are on the return trip home. They are Muslim, I assume, wearing the colourful headscarves I’ve grown accustomed to. Muslim immigrants, from North Africa and the Middle East, have come here. Eastern Europeans, Nigerian Christians, Indians and Asians, too. We have all come here, painting a different landscape. Ireland is so different than it once was.

I look up and smile at them. The younger one walks a few feet ahead of the older woman. She looks at me and I mouth “hello.” I think that maybe she has smiled back, noticing just a slight upturn of her lips.

The older woman, she never looks my way. Her head is turned back, but I see her turquoise scarf frame the curve of her lined face.

karen huberKaren Huber lives with her husband and three children in Dublin, Ireland, where they work in community development, the arts and discipleship. When she’s not at home with her kiddos, she’s out drinking coffee with friends, writing in libraries, and laughing louder than is culturally appropriate. You can find Karen’s thoughts on motherhood, marriage, culture and faith at KarenOHuber.com or meet her on Twitter at @karenohuber.

Are You Mom Enough?

Mom Enough: the fearless mother’s heart and hope

A few years ago I wrote an essay for Desiring God called Are You Mom Enough? The essay came from an article in Time magazine and from a conversation with a friend about the ‘mommy wars.’ After parenting for more than a decade in east Africa, I didn’t know what a mommy war was and had to ask my friend for clarification. Her answer made me really sad. Whether because of personal experience, cultural norms, personality and taste…moms were pitting themselves against one another. Or were being pitted against one another by outside forces. Envy, pride, comparison, judgment, all our own mess got tangled up in how we ‘should’ parent. Breast or bottle, home school or public or private or internet-based or boarding, stay at home mom or go to the office mom…it seemed none of us could make the ‘right’ choice. None of us could be mother enough.

Motherhood is challenging enough. Being a woman, a friend, a spouse, a mom, is hard. Basically, being human is hard. And instead of supporting one another, women were waging these petty wars. Like I said, it made me sad.

Then I thought more about that question: Are you mom enough? And I realized the answer was a resounding “No.” I am not mom enough. I will fail my children and make the wrong choices and bumble around hoping to give the world some solid citizens filled with faith, courage, joy, compassion, and vision in a few short years.

For me, this is right in the sweet spot of where my faith turns from theory and ideas to practice and sustaining power. I am weak and in my weakness, I’m strong. I lean on a God who is enough. Who is always and infinitely enough. I am not waging a war with other moms. I am waging a war for faith, for delight in this God who gives me his enough-ness every day, with new mercy each morning.

Desperate, Breathless, Dependent Parenting is another way to put it, and another essay I wrote for DG that is included in this new book.

So. All of that is simply an introduction to the new book put out by Desiring God.

Mom Enough: the fearless mother’s heart and hope

Our new book, written by eight women, exposes the spiritual corruption behind competitive mothering, and explores how gospel grace is relevant for the daily trials and worries of motherhood. In the trenches, these moms have learned to redirect their hope and trust from the shifting sands of popular opinion to the unchanging all-sufficiency of God.

Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope, is a rich collection of gospel truth from Rachel Jankovic, Gloria Furman, Rachel Pieh Jones, Christine Hoover, Carolyn McCulley, Trillia Newbell, and Christina Fox.

It is an incredible honor to be included in a list with these authors – wise women, experienced mothers, women of faith. I encourage you to download the free e-book or to purchase the paperback via Amazon. You’ll be blessed, challenged, inspired.

Here are the websites of the other authors so you can find more of their work:

Rachel Jankovic
Gloria Furman
Christine Hoover
Carolyn McCulley
Trillia Newbell
Christina Fox

By |November 24th, 2014|Faith|0 Comments|

What I Didn’t Know about Breastfeeding

breastfeedingQuick link: When Breastfeeding was Gross

I didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding when I had my first two kids (twins). That’s an understatement. I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding except that I was made to do and I was supposed to do it. I had no idea it would be hard, disgusting, painful, or nearly impossible. I had no idea that just because I thought I was ‘supposed’ to do it didn’t mean I had to do it, didn’t mean I was a failure when I quit doing it. Now I know about the breastfeeding super power but then? I was utterly overwhelmed and unprepared.

Here’s an excerpt from this piece at Brain Child (and yeah, I did have braces when I was married, pregnant, and 21-years old. I looked like I was 14. My doctor thought I was in high school. Maybe. Could have been junior high.)

When I gave birth the first time I was barely twenty-two years old and my braces had been removed just a few months earlier. My husband and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a downtown, low-income high rise with primarily east African neighbors. I didn’t know how to change a diaper and wasn’t sure I liked babies all that much but here came twins, ready or not, one boy and one girl.

They terrified me.

After they were born, I knew I was strong. I had given birth both vaginally and by c-section inside of a single hour, an experience I now call a vagi-section and one I don’t recommend. But I doubted I was strong enough for this: two tiny, perfect, utterly dependent human beings, now my responsibility.

Did I mention that they terrified me? They cried. They peed. They slept (sometimes and not at the same times). They needed me in ways I had never been needed before. They even needed my actual body and attached quite voraciously to my breasts.

I thought this was gross.

Click here to read the rest of When Breastfeeding was Gross and to see a sweet picture of Lu and I sleeping. Cuz that’s what moms with newborns do.

*image via Flickr

Make the Most of a Once-in-a-lifetime Ride in Business Class

Quick link: One Mom’s Guide to Faking It ‘Til You Make It in Business Class

Remember that five day flight fiasco that got me back to Djibouti this fall? After I dropped the twins off in Kenya, I boarded the final leg of my journey completely exhausted and pretty emotionally drained (it never gets easier to leave them at school). But I did receive the gift of a seat in business class on that last flight. The ticket was guaranteed instead of stand-by and it was much cheaper than a coach class ticket. Don’t ask me why, I just bought it and got myself home. Finally.

busines class

As we walked through the Nairobi airport before I dropped the kids at school, Henry said, “Well, at least we’ve got a good story to tell.” And what did I do? I told that story. And I wrote about it again for Babble. Here are some of the fun things I learned about how to enjoy business class. Like revealing your newbie status by photographing the food.

I stood in the business class check-in line and felt like an impostor, like the business class police would yank me out of line and send me to the back of the long, snaking, coach class line. When no one came to put me back in my proper place I decided to make the most of this adventure.

Here’s what I learned …

Use the transit lounge.

Use the bathroom, the wi-fi, the comfy chairs. Eat the free food, take up space, pretend you are rich.

Board early.

In Kenya everyone boards early anyway, no sense pretending you didn’t hear that only first class and business class passengers were supposed to board and no sense playing martyr and waiting until the very end and losing your overhead luggage compartment and your spot under the seat in front of you and possibly your actual seat. Board early with confidence, you belong here in the front.

To read the rest of my fun tips click here: One Mom’s Guide to Faking It ‘Til You Make It in Business Class

*image via Wikipedia

Let’s Go Flaneuring in Mexico City

Today’s Flaneuring post is by Samantha Loesch. Feel the refreshing rain fall as she takes us through her neighborhood in Mexico City and reveals the source of her hope.

I spend a lot of time on the roof of my apartment. From there, laid out in front of me is a metropolis called “The City of Hope” . . . maybe that’s why thousands flock here each year, pushing the greater population of the city closer and closer to 25 million . . . for hope.

mexico cityDuring reprieves from the season’s persistent rain and hail, I mount the final stairs to the top of the building. Standing at over 7,000 feet above sea level, the short journey always leaves me short of breath. I take several gulps of the brisk air that smacks against my cheeks before making my way towards the edge.  Since living under the smoggy, polluted skies, I’ve come to appreciate the rain. It freshens the air and tears down the thick, low hanging curtains over the valley that hide the surrounding mountains from view. I take in another mouthful, knowing it won’t be much longer until the soot returns and dirties the inside of my nose and ears.  Beneath my feet, the red painted rooftop bakes in the sun. My skin warms as I linger and I peel off one of the extra layers I always seem to be wearing. And finally, I look out.

There’s something about being so far above the traffic jammed streets that helps me see more clearly and make sense of their chaotic melody. A chorus of car horns plays alongside the sing-songy chatter of the romantic language that I work so diligently to master. Rising above are the calls from young men selling tamales from their bicycles, the swift ringing of a hand-bell to signal garbage pick-up, and the long whistle of a passing camote cart. From around the corner, the wail of a lone saxophone grows as it serenades those sitting at the restaurants’ outdoor tables.

mexico city

The wind picks up, lifting and mixing the scents from those same restaurants and food stands. Just several doors down, a stern woman presses fresh tortillas through an old machine, depositing tall stacks into thin, plastic bags for the line of people crowding the sidewalk. Some are mothers, holding the hands of their uniformed children with perfectly gelled hair returning from another day of school. Others are construction workers with worn boots and dirt stained pants from the building project down the street. Several steaming kilos will make their way to my corner store. Other stacks will be used to catch seasoned, flame-licked pork cut away from a pineapple-topped trompo.

I pull my eyes up, away from the views that so captivate me, to look towards the sky. The first raindrop splashes off the tip of my nose as dense, dusty blue clouds quickly tumble closer, choking out the light from the setting sun. The approaching darkness reminds me of the deep hurt and darkness that scars my city: results of violence, mistrust, and injustice. I’ve witnessed it and mourned it, but I also celebrate the hope that exists in spite of it.

mexico city

When I see young girls standing on dimly lit street corners, waiting to be chosen out of a line-up by men behind tinted car windows, I can have hope.  When I pick up my phone to read urgent notices about disappearances, deaths, and demonstrations, I can have hope.  When the world around me looks broken and all feels hopeless, I can yet have hope.

People are being drawn to this city for a glimpse of that hope; but I came because I already have it. I serve a God who is hope; a God who raises beauty up out of ashes, grants gladness in the place of mourning, gives liberty to captives, and offers praise to those of a faint spirit. He is the One I call out to; He is what the city is desperately longing for and only He can fill its deepest needs.

So as I stand here on my rooftop, looking out over a broken city, I can see beauty – because I see Hope.

samantha loeschSamantha lives in the center of Mexico City and works with an EFCA ReachGlobal team to bring the hope of the gospel to her community and city. One of the team’s initiatives is the restoration of under-aged and abused women rescued out of human trafficking. She is passionate about living intentionally within her community, developing discipleship relationships with young ladies, and being a continual learner of the culture (especially when that involves tacos or pozole). Samantha enjoys photography and the way it acts as an invitation for others to join into her story and challenges her to find beauty in crowded city streets…or from rooftops.

Blog:  http://www.throughlifeandlens.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaLoeschInMexicoCity?ref=hl