legacy

There are two teachers I will remember forever.

Their faces are burned bright into my memory—a flash of light and hope in a sea of otherwise somewhat forgettable characters. These two are beacons to me—touch points I can turn to again and again.

One is my fifth grade teacher. In a tumultuous time in my life, school was a place of safety and security. I knew what to expect and I knew what was expected of me. I loved reading and this teacher always had a recommendation. At one point during the year we had to read this book called Fog Magic. She gave each student their own copy with a message from her. I’m sure for every kid she spent time coming up with the perfect thing to write on the inside cover of their book. When I read the words she wrote for me I felt seen; I glowed from the inside out. I gave her the first few precious words I ever wrote—spirals filled with fifth grade level fiction. She read every word and would leave notes, telling me the things she liked and what worked. I remember the care she took with those precious half-steps I made as I first put pen to page.

The other teacher was my English AP teacher junior year in high school. He would stand in front of the classroom and rip open books, delving deep into the words to create meaning out of chaos. I learned about theme and diction and how writer’s have a purpose they are striving to achieve. I learned about metaphor from the turtle in The Grapes of Wrath. For most books we read we would have this 50-75 question in-depth study guide. Hard questions, asking us to go deeper and deeper. The Friday before it was due, I with a few others would swarm his desk and ask questions and he would lead us on this journey. He would waggle his bushy, gray eyebrows at us when we were on the right track. That was the year I knew I would be an English major in college. He gave my love for reading books and for sucking the marrow out of words a direction.

I wonder as I think about these two, if that’s enough of a legacy.

I wonder if these two teachers are satisfied with their life’s work knowing that I am irrevocably altered because my life intersected with theirs. If I’m the only who remembers them…are they satisfied?

Because I don’t hope for more than a few to know my name or read my words. But I am so thankful for the sacrifices these two teachers made. And I want it to be enough because I would not be sitting here today outside my kid’s school writing these words if it weren’t for them. And while I want my words to matter and have purpose and give life…

I also want to be enough for the one. One connection. One person.

I think often in this world where everyone seems to have their five minutes of fame, it’s easy to get discouraged when I’m not hitting the numbers. When the slow work of putting words to paper overwhelms me and it’s easier to paint a bathroom and menu plan than create fantastical worlds and I start to buy into this lie that I’m not good enough, or that I’ll never make it. Or the sad reality that all these words will be forgotten and buried in fifty years.

But I’m starting to think that’s a lie. That the fame—or whatever—is misleading and fleeting. Because I want to matter to people—but more than that I want to matter to the one. I want to touch and speak and love the ones through my words and through my life who are nearby. And even though I will be forgotten in a hundred years, my life vapor and dust, I get to live today. I get to write the words that will set me free. I get to nourish and feed my family. I get to have coffee with a friend while she dreams her dream—and I get to be a ripple pushing goodness and love out into this world.

I am better because of two teachers.

My children may never know their names but their lives are better because of two teachers.

We live long after our dust has settled to the ground whether the world remembers us or not.

a letter to the one who sees me (on her birthday)

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After a full day of travel after ten days in Uganda.

The words will flow. I know if I bring her to my mind the stories and the words will just flow.

I’ve known her for seven years. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but with the number of people who have come in and out of my life, having one who stays feels extra special to me.

I remember the first time we talked, we talked about hair. And the next thing I know she sent home a hair product with Doug she thought I would like.

I also received a butterfly clip–wish I still had it, but I think it got purged in one of my cleaning phases because at the time it wasn’t that remarkable.

A tree fell on my car, I got a rash, and was planning a birthday party for our one year old. She brought me flowers.

Said one year old would spend her time at childcare during church, screaming her head off, and she would hold and rock her instead of having me paged to come get the inconsolable little one.

The most remarkable thing is that all this happened at a time when I felt invisible in a church I had been in for six years. I remember walking down the long hallway to drop off my two little ones, wondering if I should even be there. She would be sitting at the end, and her face would light up when she saw me. For a moment, I felt like I belonged…that I mattered to someone.

Have you ever had a time where you felt intentionally pursued, like someone just decided that you were for loving? Lord, I hope you have. There is nothing that heals and restores quiet like that feeling, no matter what lies you have believed before.

One unremarkable Sunday when she stopped me in the hallway and asked how she could pray for me. I stared into her eyes and I risked. I told her about a big, impossible dream. And she believed with and for me. In that whole waiting process, she was faithful to carry my burden and my dream and my hope as if it were her own.  After several months, the hope I had was disappointed.

In a moment of grief, like any logical person I decided the best thing for me to do would be to go and visit my sister in Uganda. I didn’t want to go by myself, so I texted the one who had carried me, who had seen me, who had loved me.

We flew across the world so I could grieve. She held me while I cried. She taught me how to cling to faith when the bottom had fallen out. She made me laugh and taught me to find joy even in the sadness. She taught me about the heart of my God, and how it so much vaster than I ever could have imagined.

She couldn’t set me free, but she certainly dropped a lot of keys so that I could learn to unlock the cage I had trapped myself in and has stood by me while I tried to stretch my wings.

1512599_10104037026528350_219242120_nMaritza Amanda, you are the woman I hope to become. I love you. Happy birthday sweet friend, soul-mate, and sister. You are for loving. I hope you feel all the love today, and that you experience how IRREPLACEABLE you are too all the ones who call you friend. 

book review and giveaway: Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

I folded his clothes and placed them in the drawer. The onesies and sleepers and tiny t-shirts overwhelmed me with their cuteness. The special baby laundry detergent left little scent on the clothes, but somehow they still smelled like babies and all the hope and life they promise. I closed the drawer and stood, still getting used to my new post-baby body. It wasn’t what it had been, and I’m not sure it ever would be. But in this moment, it and I weren’t hating each other. I looked at his nursery, filled with clothes and toys and diapers. And I wrestled with the tension of how this little three month old boy had so much, when I knew other little boys were wasting away because they didn’t have enough food, let alone enough clothing or shelter.

I loved my son. I loved his blue eyes, his sleepy expressions and the way his blond hair stuck up around his head. He was long and lean just like me and his daddy. I loved how he was quiet and would just stare at us, slow to crack a smile that other babies gave away freely.

I loved snuggling him close, and the way he sucked at my breast, eating quickly and efficiently. He didn’t waste time.

I wanted to give him all the best things I could give him. And even in that euphoric love, I knew this is how mothers generally feel about their children. My love for my son was no different than the love of mothers all over the world. We are hard-wired to give ourselves to our children. And I wrestled with the unfairness and the tension that I could provide him with so much while so many couldn’t give their children anything. 

The discrepancy tore at me, breaking me open. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I could have so much when so many had so little. There was a temptation to duck my head and just live my life the best I could with what I had. To listen to my own heart and my own wants and take what I had been given and pour it into more.

But I also found an invitation. I found an invitation to wrestle with the tension, to ask the hard questions. An invitation to hear stories and to see the common thread of humanness that ties us all together. It was an invitation to be part of something bigger—to be part of a global change. It was an invitation to use the lottery of birth to share, to become a blessing. It was an invitation to hear the ones whose voices have been stolen, speaking into them and creating space where their voices are heard. It was an invitation to enter into the suffering of others, even as I sit here on my couch.

//

51CoG28Bc0L._AA160_I’m a writer. So one of the ways I have engaged this tension is by writing about it. Jen Hatmaker wrote the book I would love to write. I read Interrupted when it first came out, and was undone. She put all the thoughts and feelings and words to something that had been plaguing me. She spoke about our privilege and turning our lives upside down—about really engaging the world in which we get to live. How our privilege gives us the opportunity to be more than just another vapor, but a chance to make a real and marked change. Interrupted is her journey into this tension, and the steps she took as she learned about the heart of God, and his desperate love for all people.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of My sheep will die today because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are My youngest lambs, starving today with plenty of food to go around. If you truly love Me, you will feed My sheep. My people are already crumbling and dying and starving, and you’re blessing blessed people and serving the saved…All of a sudden I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed by misguided.”

“…can you see why when Americans say democracy, the world hears greed? What seems like basic freedom to us sounds like vast consumption to everyone else…We appear indulged and entitled and oblivious to global crisis and our contribution to the disparity.”

“We stand at the intersection of extreme privilege and extreme poverty, and we have a question to answer: Do I care?…Of course, all I can do is make the tiniest ripple in the ocean. That’s about all you’re good for too. But it’s foolish to become paralyzed by the scope of suffering or discouraged by the limit of our reach.”

“I realized I was completely normal. But my Savior was the most un-normal guy ever. And it was His un-normal ideas that made everything new.”

“We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed. We can’t project our advantaged perspective onto struggling people and expect results available only to the privileged.”

“There was one Judas, but eleven disciples who were forever transformed by Jesus’ broken body. The risk of encountering a few weeds is not sufficient reason to avoid the whole field of human suffering…”

“Ultimately, it is not nation or race, church or citizenship that gives people value. It is not sinlessness or innocence that makes us precious. It is not that Jesus looks at us as helpless or powerful, poor or rich, weak or strong. We are loved because we are living images of God, made in his likeness and created for the heights of his glory and the depths of communion. Our very God took on our form for the love of humanity…”

I am forcing myself to stop here. There are so many more things that resonated with me. I know some of those quotes may be hard to read—but I promise on the other side is life. If you’d like to keep reading, the book is available now at any of your preferred booksellers. But I also have a copy to give away. (I’ll order one via amazon and have it shipped directly to the winner cause my lovely daughter added some artwork to the cover of the book the publisher sent me.)

And if you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what parts stood out to you.

Comment below to be entered in the giveaway and I’ll pick a winner next Wednesday, September 3.

this moment matters

This will be short—another little blog post trying to answer unanswerable questions, or at least wrestling with the questions.

But I decided to do it publicly because there are people who might need to know that I am standing with them. That as events and scenes unfolded I can link arms and listen to their stories and begin to understand a little what they experience daily. Because we’re the same. We have arms and hands that clutch our little ones close, legs and feet that carry us great distances, lungs that breathe in the beauty and wonder in this world. We have hearts that beat for our little babies and ache to keep them safe in this big, wide world. What happens to all of us matters because we are united by our common humanity.

We shouldn’t have to fear that our children will be man-handled because of the color of their skin.

We shouldn’t have to teach our sons that shots will be fired before questions are asked.

My son and I don’t know that world. But I ache that many mothers and sons do. I see that it is so. I don’t know how I can help—but I’m trying. I see. I am here.  And I weep. I am mourning over the darkness that seems to prevail, for the unjustness and the corruption and the hatred that seems to be overpowering right now.

I chose to write because I couldn’t stay silent—there is too much at stake. I want my son to hold hands with yours. I want him to grow up knowing that he has to fight for the things that are unjust, that with his privilege—which wasn’t something he earned but was DNA and chance—comes an opportunity for empathy and a chance to help make the world better for all people.

So much has been lost that can never be replaced.

I won’t stand by while my generation fights for justice. This moment matters.

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