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One Word and Taking Risks

Here are two things that came out this week:

One Word: An Interview with My Teenager Daughter

This was super fun to do – interview my own kid? Yes, please. She’s so great. Check out our conversation about the word she chose for 2019, why she chose it, and how she is leaning into it.

And Part Two of my conversation with Jen Howat, at the Giving Up Normal podcast. This part includes my encouragement to those who might be struggling to take the leap into the unknown of something hard, or risky.

Enjoy!

 

Three Sisters Respond to Losing Rachel Held Evans

I attended the 2018 Evolving Faith conference with my two sisters. I posted this photo of us while there.

I brought with me a recent cancer diagnosis. We laughed about the Enneagram. We cried the way only sisters can, when facing fear and grief and brokenness, and also love.

I ran into, unexpectedly, one of my dearest college friends (shout out to Jessica Jones, designer of the Djibouti Jones logo and no relation except being soul-friends for life) and her husband. I met writing friends for the first time in person: Sarah Quezada, Tara Livesay, Sarah Bessey, Idelette McVicker, Tina Francis, Rachel Held Evans.

Living and writing from the Horn of Africa has meant most of my writing connections are virtual. It means I miss all the conferences and gatherings. It means my stories, though full of similar questions, doubts, joys, and hopes, sound foreign and strange. It means the chance to hug, shake hands with, and share actual voice exchanges with women I have long admired and interacted with, was intensely unique and precious for me.

Plus, I was there with my sisters. Which was awesome.

***

I woke one morning in late April, 2019, with a short WhatsApp message from one of those sisters.

“Did you see the news about Rachel Held Evans?”

We started to pray.

I woke a week later to another message from my sister.

“Did you see the news about Rachel Held Evans? So tragic.”

I started to cry.

(in case you missed it, Rachel passed away on the morning of May 4, 2019, you can read a tribute to her by her friends Sarah and Jeff in the Washington Post here.)

As so many of us have cried. And prayed, for her husband and children, her sister and parents, her friends, her people – us – the ones on the outer edges, the ones she challenged and who challenged her back in the push and pull of spiritually wrestling, and who always felt heard and like more than “just” internet friends.

It is just so, so sad.

I got another message from both sisters, two days later.

One wrote, “I’m so sad about RHE and I don’t even really know her stuff or her at all. Just so sad for her family and for all the people who have been impacted by her.”

I wrote back, “Me too. It is unreal. Death sucks.”

Then my other sister wrote, “I’m not sure why, but her death is really impacting me. I’m struck by the words of those she left behind: women, and especially women of color, LGBTQ folks, outsiders. It feels like a motley crew – like the kind of crew that gathered around Jesus. I didn’t follow her closely so don’t have a personal feeling of loss. But I’m deeply struck by how influential she was in her pursuit of truth, and her courage in doing so. I want to be that way. I want to stand up for women and the oppressed. Is that not what we are called to do?!

She went on, and I’ll quote her entirely because, dang, my sisters are awesome.

“I find myself being angry at ‘the church.’ It doesn’t make sense to me anymore that women can’t lead or that we wouldn’t accept gay people. I’m tired of old white male leadership. I’m not angry (ok, that’s not quite true) but I feel so disappointed. Somehow (thank you, mom and dad!) I still feel this deep love for Jesus, for God. I feel so deeply that he loves us and knows us, created and calls us. But I have no more patience for arguing about who is in the tent. Or who can lead or be at our table. We just don’t have the time for that. We are called to Love. We are called to give and forgive. That is hard and enough. We are called to go to the hard places. That is hard enough. Let us go to the hard places.”

The only words I could find in response were, “Amen and amen.”

I love my sisters. I am grateful to the point of tears for our relationship (and also our brother – shout out to you, bro!).

Which makes me think of Rachel’s sister, Amanda Opelt. I know that Rachel’s sister loved her, too. The hole must be immense. May she feel love. May she be able to laugh at memories, even while she weeps. May she feel held.

May Amanda somehow feel my sisters and I, gathering up her tears and sending tender sister blessings to her soul.

Rachel will be missed. The words my sisters expressed are part of her legacy.

A call to go to the hard places. A call to love. A call to courage. A call to cling to Jesus.

***

The next WhatsApp message we exchanged among sisters was a Mother’s Day image saying, “She pees her pants every time she coughs because of you. Send the woman flowers.”

Because that’s the kind of range sisters can cover in a matter of hours.

***

Here are Rachel’s books.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

Searching for Sunday: Loving, leaving, and finding the church (I was part of voting for this one when it won a Christianity Today award)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a liberated woman found herself sitting on the roof, covering her head, and calling her husband “Master.”

Faith Unraveled: How a girl who knew all the answers learned to ask questions  (this one is on sale as of this posting, a Kindle deal. And a really good book.)

*affiliate links

The Bookshelf, January 2019

The holidays, my brother’s wedding, and family in town meant I did not read much in December.

But cancer and isolation in January meant I had loads of time to read. Plus, I received two gift cards for places where the only thing I could purchase was books. Awesome! I couldn’t repurpose the gifts to buy socks for my kids or groceries. I had to buy books, which I did with great delight.

A Tree Full of Angels, by Macrina Wiederkehr. Beautiful. This quote says it all, “You live in a world of theophanies. Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.”

The Coddling of the American Mind. This book was fascinating. As a parent of two college students, a person involved in education, and an expatriate observing America from afar, I appreciated this balanced perspective on rage culture, “safetyism,” and changing ideas of what is violent or offensive. I admit to be slightly confused as to why a person feels unsafe because they are assigned a reading by someone they disagree with. Especially when in my world, I feel unsafe when people throw stones at me or grab my butt when I walk in the street. The dichotomy made it hard to understand aspects of American news. This book also brought about really great conversations with my college kids about campus culture, and mental health.

The Incendiaries, by R.O. Kwon. I read another novel, you guys! Must be the radioactivity going to my brain. I enjoyed it. Campus life, politics, religion…it was a quick and interesting read. According to NPR, “In The Incendiaries Kwon has created a singular version of the campus novel; it turns out to be a story about spiritual uncertainty and about the fierce and undisciplined desire of her young characters to find something luminous to light their way through their lives.”

Invitation to Retreat by Ruth Haley Barton. This was a gentle, sweet read to guide me into my days of nuclear-treatment and isolation for my cancer. If you are considering a few days of retreat, consider reading this ahead of time or bring it along.

Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammed. I love reading about women and sports, especially Muslim women and sports because there aren’t many stories in print (yet). And the story is a good one. My one complaint is that I found it a bit slow going.

Louder than Words: harness the power of your authentic voice, by Todd Henry. A lot of this book is geared toward writers, or creatives, but it is for more than just us. Its for for anyone trying to find their vocation, or passion, or obsession. The highlight for me was how Henry takes the reader through practical exercises to help develop a “manifesto” that can guide our decisions about work, creative or not.

Fear and Faith: finding the peace your heart craves, by Trillia Newbell. I read this in basically one sitting, while waiting in the waiting room and then the nuclear medicine room as I waited for my radioactive iodine treatment. They had to take a required pregnancy test, which meant I had a long time to wait. I love the title and there were plenty of wise words in this book. I appreciated her vulnerability about her own fears and losses. Sometimes, I find Christian books like this to be basically some nice stories and then some Bible verses. I wanted her to dig deeper. That could be a reaction stemming from my 16 years abroad – culture shock or culture shift or something. Like when she writes, like so many other American Christians, “For now, know what God wants to remind us that he will take care of all our needs…” and goes on to say how our basic needs like food and shelter will be met. And I want to shout, “But what about when they aren’t?!” Because that is what I see in the Horn of Africa and can’t yet find a book that is honest about how sometimes God doesn’t meet those needs we consider ‘basic human rights.’ Who is God then, and what is his plan? I believe he is still good and present, but let’s talk about that.

The Plot Whisperer: secrets of story structure any writer can master, by Martha Alderson. This book also comes with a workbook. For anyone working on a novel, screenplay, even a memoir, this book is incredibly practical and useful. Using the Universal Story as a guideline (ala Story, by Robert McKee), she breaks down what needs to happen over the course of a story, and when.

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. A memoir of near-death experiences. This book was scary and hopeful and brave and interesting. Every chapter is about one of the author’s near-death experiences. It made me think about when or if I’ve had experiences like that and how I’ve responded.

 

By |January 14th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |0 Comments

Blessings for Expatriates

Quick link: A Blessing On Your Life Overseas

Today I’m at A Life Overseas writing about blessings and writers block/brain fog.

I’ve walked through darkness this year. In the lowest moments, a friend sent me blessings every day. I started reading John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. I am now sending blessings to someone I love dearly, to walk with her through her own dark days. My brother is getting married to a woman I adore, so I wrote them a marriage blessing.

I don’t believe in writer’s block (refuse the concept!) but I did struggle this month with brain fog. I have all kinds of excuses, but instead of listing them, I’ll tell you what I decided.

I decided we need blessing. We need to insist on it, to wrestle with God until he gives it to us, to turn to one another and offer it. We need to speak blessing, not rage. We need to receive blessing when it comes to us from unexpected places. We need to discover, anew, all it can mean to live as a blessing among the nations.

And so, I bless you, expatriate, and your life overseas.

I tried to write my own blessing but alas, brain fog. Or #blamethecancer? So I’m borrowing from other, wiser people…

Click here to read the blessings these other, wiser people have written and with which I bless you, expatriate.

By |December 19th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Good Things the Seventeenth, November 2018

Hey! I missed this. I never posted it on December 1, for good things from November. I did have the list. Here it is now, one good thing for every day from November. I get to still say #blamethecancer because, well, I’ve still got it and still got foggy brain, too.

1 soup. hot soup from my dear friend. And an orange. I can’t talk to even say thank you. That’s why she brought soup. So, now, thank you.

2 sleeping with a big fluffy cat on top of my legs

3 resting with my mother-in-law while the men went hunting (I am so thankful for my in-laws, doubly so during cancer, they have been wonderful)

4 fresh venison on the grill

5 one, last long-ish run around the lake and feeling my heart race and my legs move and my breath, foggy in the cold, and feeling happy I’ve had this running joy for ten years and hopeful that I will have it again eventually

6 post-surgery nurses, especially the one with whom I had this conversation.

Nurse: “How is your pain? Honey? How is your pain?”

Me: (rolling from side to side and moaning and almost vomiting and mumbling) “Idontknow maybefour.”

Out of a ten-point scale.

Nurse: “Oh honey. Let’s say it’s a six.” And then she gave me more meds. That was awesome. And a good reminder that being tough isn’t always the right thing.

7 at least one morning post-surgery with my husband before he left for Djibouti. Not long enough and I miss him like crazy already, but it was better than no time and choosing gratitude doesn’t mean being nit-picky

8 emergency room doctors and parents who make healthcare decisions for me when I can barely finish a coherent sentence

9 something not-cancer related: going to my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s wedding dress fitting. She picked a gorgeous dress but she makes the dress move from gorgeous to stunning. So happy for my brother and for her.

10 old friend from far away, one of my first-ever friends drove through multiple states to visit me and sit with me and drive me around

11 walking in the snow on a silent Sunday morning

12 talking about Third Culture Kids with women who love them deeply

13 one week post-surgery, one week sans thyroid, feels like a milestone

14 being an extra at an extended friends Thanksgiving dinner party

15 hearing about a childhood friend’s dream for serving single mothers

16 meeting a writer friend at the Loft

17 high school friends (we haven’t changed at all)

18 Austin Channing Brown, preaching

19 Kenyan tea with an old friend who oozes gentle wisdom

20 one college student, home for the weekend

21 second college student, home for the weekend

22 American Thanksgiving

23 American Thanksgiving #2

24 young cousins attacking their oldest cousins with pillows

25 good conversations with my adult(!) children

26 post-op appointment: cancer didn’t spread

27 raspberries

28 brunch with new friends who have big hearts

29 turning in the final draft of Welcome to Djibouti, a guidebook

30 the Nutcracker Ballet with my mom and pork chops with cherry glaze for dinner