The endeavor.

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I am unexpectedly in Bangkok for a few days, with people I love, away from people I love. All is well. I wanted to help with a difficult situation and find myself with delightful friends. I am thankful that God is with us. 

*

The day comes with all the things that need to happen. Standing in a corner of the room, shaking her head at me. 

“Flowers,” I tell her. “Dogs on the street. Surprising patterns on the walls. Men playing chess in between taxi drives.”

“Look at your list,” she says. “How are you ever going to get this all done?”

“Playing with children,” I tell her. “Unexpected smiles. Basil in my food. Bangkok spices. Fruit on the street. Thinking putty. Good smells. I don’t believe that the magic is gone. I don’t believe in being impervious to it all.” 

*

Can it be as simple as love? The fact of being beloved? Of wanting to walk in the world in love? It feels like the world isn’t safe for loving people. But Jesus said that it is, even if it is a different definition of safety, one that doesn’t guarantee much beyond my heart being safe in the heart of God. Today I will endeavor to believe him. 

Monday poetry.

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All that is there

Flipping through photographs
when all that is here is not here
My thumb on a crease on the corner
this is the way we are forever
this is the way we live.
A woman
steps into the street
looks both ways
finds the little white dog
and calls her back.
She buys groceries
remembers her manners
looks for love
forgets
looks again
gets up when she doesn’t want to
fights off her fragility
wants to be strong.
The bricks
the walls
the harrowing escape.
Open, empty hands
the creases in them that tell the years
Oh, we loved you
We failed you but we loved you
I hope it will be enough.

One thing.

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Isn’t it easy to get all tangled up? I want to enter into the suffering of the world, I want to understand. I don’t want to turn away. But then there is just so MUCH. And it is easy to drift along, getting pulled into one mess after another, looking up vaguely when the children want food. 

And I have always wanted to be a monk and mystic, so I need to slow down the intake. 

I think it’s actually pretty simple. I know that I need to do things in their proper order. Or in other words, actually do what I am sitting down to do. When I sit down to edit, I need to stay away from Facebook, although it is excellent in it’s designated time. When I do school with my kids, I need to be there with them, not planning the next day via text.

A time for waking. A time for free writing. A time for exercise. A time for checking in with family, friends and issues on Facebook. A time for writing and editing. A time for school, a time for my community. A time to nap. (Napping makes me feel rich. I have discovered the joys of a twenty minute nap. It can restore a day after a five am wakeup.)


Do one thing. Monk and mystic. Simple work, surrounded by the mystery of God. His close presence, right there, wanting to be with me joyfully for some reason I can’t quite comprehend. His love a glow inside. A quiet presence around, enveloping. 

*

Now the skies are blue again, with swiftly moving clouds that converge in the afternoons, bringing storms and rainbows. It is my favorite time of year, but then they all are. (I even love the smoky season because it reminds me of the veil we live in, how we cry out for it to be taken away.) 

My lanky kids have been busy.  Sometimes I wake from a nap to hear them singing and playing ukelele. Sometimes they get along like puppies. Or they always get along like puppies, but the play turns to snarling. 

Yesterday, Solo and Kenya made cookies with a little M&M surprise in the middle. 

“They’re not perfect, but they’re pretty good,” Kenya told me.

“You can use recipes, you know,” I told her. 

She made a face. They don’t use recipes for anything. They are scientists with food, preferring to experiment. Recipes are boring. When they feel snacky they make themselves hardtack, (after Leafy’s obsession with boats) or strange little biscuits. 

“Mom! I’m hungry and there’s no flour!” 

Quirky kids. Joy of my life. (Of course, for snacks I keep boiled peanuts and corn on the cob in the fridge, so I’m not the most conventional of snackers myself.)

Isaac is finishing up with his second term of school today. He’s most interested in breaking codes. He loves to play with numbers in his head for hours and is a little more impatient with using a number line or blocks to solve equations. (Recipes are boring.) He’s also loving learning to read Thai and has begun speaking bit by bit. He has tons of friends and is cheerfully resilient and impervious to school yard issues. One of his teachers told me that he is “relaxed about friendships,” which means he plays with anyone anytime, without much awareness of the kinds of insecurities the rest of the world deals with, or why friends might be upset if you don’t play with them one day. In other words, he is Chinua’s son. I’m the interpreter for the rest of the world and our complex feelings. He reminds me of Kai, who at that age used to ask, “Why are you crying? When are you going to stop?”

Solo’s dancing continues to amaze and delight us. He is the most uninhibited creature I have ever encountered, and I have to stop myself sometimes from trying to “hibit” him. (Mostly just when he’s shouting out random words in the middle of conversations because things have gotten too normal for him.)

*

Also, here’s an exciting thing: The first episode of the Shekina Meditation Podcast is out and the second should be out later today. YOU. GUYS. This has been a dream/idea for so long. One of those ones that just sort of floats out of sight because you don’t exactly know how to do it. (Like writing a book, or playing an instrument.) And we finally grabbed hold of the necessary pieces and stuck them together.

You can find it here. It should be on iTunes soon as well. I’ll let you know.

They are teaching me.

Lately there is an occasional person who asks me how I’m handling all my freedom now that my kids are at school. And I laugh and laugh, because I am still homeschooling three kids. Which is only a small amount of kids to homeschool if you have been teaching more than three. I’ve been doing this four about thirteen years. It’s a commitment.

We’re having fun, just the four of us at home during the day. It’s a quiet bunch. They like to draw and create things on the computer. They need to be nudged back into study sometimes. Sometimes other friends come and learn with us. Another friend comes and gets a guitar lesson with Chinua. The house flows with learning.

Wookie is always around, cuddling with someone while they read or work. Often she’s with Solo. Those two love each other. I started a new English class so that I can really use the time wisely. After yesterday’s class, where we started the book “Elijah of Buxton,” and talked about the first chapter, which offered us a glimpse at our protagonist, Leafy started thinking about protagonists.

He came to me at 9:30, just before I fell asleep, to tell me what he had discovered. 

“I realized that almost all protagonists have more than one syllable in their name,” he said. “I've been counting them up and I would say nine out of ten.” 

I think I’m teaching them, but they are teaching me. 

“What is this chapter doing?” I ask. “What is it settling for us, right off the bat?” The family is warm, funny. Loves each other.

The family is warm and funny. Loves each other.

I cried, yesterday, missing Kai. It’s starting to sink in that he’s far away. I'm so, so happy for him, and I think he's thriving. but I am still his mother, and I miss him.

***

A few years ago,  I brought a few sticks of curry leaf tree home with me from India. One of them seemed to take, and I brought it to Devotion Circle to illustrate the concept of hope. 

“It doesn’t look like much,” I said. “It’s just a stick. But look at these tiny leaves. There is the hope.” 

Then I brought it home and killed it by forgetting about it. It wasn’t the most auspicious thing to do. I’ve been looking for a curry plant ever since. Leaf successfully transplanted a couple from India, but they are small and not mine to harvest, so though I have enjoyed watching them grow, I haven’t used their leaves more than once.

Yesterday, on my way back from driving Isaac to school on the motorbike, I saw a couple driving in front of me. The lady on the back was holding a big tree, and the leaves looked like curry leaf, but I’ve seen other similar plants that have fooled me here. Then the smell wafted back to me and I realized it was curry. I sped up so I could drive beside the couple and called out to them. 

“What is that?” I asked in Thai.

“It’s a curry tree!” the woman called.

“Are you selling it?”

They pulled over and I bought myself a giant curry leaf tree. 

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Leaf saw me and stopped to share the excitement. I put the tree in my basket and brought it home.

It’s as though God is telling me something. I am quick to lose (kill) hope. I despair over small set backs and slights. I grow disappointed, worried that God doesn’t see what is going on, what’s happening with my kids, what we need. But then the thing I need falls into my lap, and it’s almost as though that little hope tree has been growing the whole time. I didn’t lose it after all.

Dear Solomon, (A letter to my ten-year-old son)

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My love, you are ten. Ten years ago, you were born during the monsoon in India, during stormy, dark, wet rain. A long labor and then there you were, a little piece of sunshine. 

This has been a good year for you. Friendships are deepening, your confidence is growing, and you’ve grown stronger in reading and writing. You started gymnastics and we were all a little shocked by your headstands and ability to do the worm all the way across the floor. Or fall back into a bridge. 

You’ve grown so tall. You’re all arms and legs and knees and elbows. You’re most often moving. Whirling, jumping, climbing, hopping.

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You love to cook, to dream, to listen to music. You love to dance wildly. You love playing the piano and drawing. The way to your truest heart is through beauty. You are transformed by a sunset or a perfect music score. Your favorite movie is Song of the Sea, and you are a little heartbroken that you will never be a Selkie. Or have a Night Fury like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. It hurts you that fantasy isn’t real. (It is, though we can’t see it in regular life.)

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You are very kind. From a rough little three year old, you turned into a boy who I couldn’t imagine purposely hurting another kid. (Besides perhaps your siblings because let’s be honest, siblings are like a pack of feral puppies.) You hate injustice and you are sensible and empathetic when it comes to treating people well. You have a longing to connect well with other people. It is beautiful to see.

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You climb into my lap at any opportunity. I keep you there as long as I can, and then I have to tip you out because you are gigantic and my legs fall asleep. I love that you love to cuddle. Part of your identity comes from being different from any other person, and I love that about you! Sometimes things get too conventional, and you handle it by shouting loud non-sequiteurs that help you feel the balance of weird with normal. We take them in short chunks, and then tell you to stop when it becomes too much. 

What would I do without your wild music running all through my life? You are a strand of something unconventional; pure art and dancing. You give me courage. You are most at home in a dreamy world, and it churns with life. I can’t wait to see what you will create.

I love you at ten. I’ve loved you all your life. I will love you forever,

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Love.

Mama

***

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