Worship: Five Minute Friday

It’s Friday again. Time to take a breath and write for five minutes with the wonderful folks at Five Minute Friday! You can check out the rules here but the summary is: “just write, without worrying if it’s just right.”
Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt is “worship.”

My brother took me to an icy parking lot behind our high school one snow day to teach me to handle our shared vehicle: a fire-engine red 1985 Chevy Scottsdale truck, almost as wide as it was long. Whether it was out of goodness or a desire to see my eyes widen as we spun in circles remains undetermined. The primary lesson I recall, besides to not get in the truck on an icy day with my brother for a long time, was that I had to do the counter-intuitive. I had to turn into the skid. As I felt the tires slipping, losing grip on ice, I wanted to force us straight and slam on the brakes. Neither, it turns out, worked very well.

Seven house guests are on their way to me, to see my older son be baptized on Sunday. The laundry isn’t clean and the dishes aren’t either. The beds are half-made and I’d prefer not to think about the menu yet. I have 90 minutes until the first guests arrive.

The list of things to do is long. Some of the undone on that list seem ancient, following me around as long as I can remember. There is a friend of a friend, seeking political asylum a few hours away who needs certain help from me here. There are people waiting to help her in her new city, waiting on email directives from me. There are meals to make and Playmobil knights to put away and shoes to collect and a bathtub to wipe down. There are texts to send and people to pray for and the checkbook to balance.

All these things can be worship; in service I worship. In hospitality I offer to God a sacrifice that pleases him. In prayer, yes; in writing emails, yes; in setting my home in order, yes. Yes, all of these can be worship.

But there is that push inside me that says, “No.” Today the worship is to sit. To stop moving long enough to receive mercy and know that that is what transpired. To be still long enough to rest. To be quiet long enough to listen. There are things to do and work to finish and words to pray and write and speak but there is also a God who waits to be gracious to me. Perhaps the waiting is only that I might slow down, that I might know it is grace that comes from God and not from my busy hands and mouth and feet.

So I turn into the skid. I stop listing and I start listening. I stop moving and I start breathing, deep. I embrace the luxury that surpasses every massage, pedicure, spa day imaginable: I breathe deep and feel what I need filling my body. I do what every lucid brain cell tells me is absurd; I turn the way I shouldn’t. With this much to do, I need to get busy. But worship today is getting still. Turning in the other direction, the one that makes no sense, the one that will be salvation.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it….”
(Isaiah 30:15)

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Small: Five Minute Friday

It’s that time again. Time to throw out the rule book and the internal editors and get some words down. I’m joining in at Lisa-Jo‘s Five Minute Friday (feel free to click through to read the rules or join in yourself).

My mind wandered this week when his small hands pushed in my cheeks to the point of discomfort, wandered and wondered over the bigness his smallness brings. How small bends me low. How small makes me hush and listen. How small reminds me again and again and again that I am not above anything at all—not cleaning up vomit, not repeating an inane remark in a way that shows me to be less clever than I thought, not forgoing adult luncheons in order to avoid a missed nap. Small keeps me right close to the ground, to the dirt under my fingernails, to the pulsing reality of my beating heart that is dust to dust and ashes to ashes.

Small binds me close to home. Small brings me to the same room every night. Small rhythms and rhymes its way through my life with the same motions each day: the swipe of a table and the push of a vacuum and the point of the finger and the kiss of the boo-boo.

My maid of honor was taken on a whirlwind, twenty day trip of Europe this summer. Through the out-and-out grace of a college friend’s mother, she traveled to countries she may otherwise never have seen. She ate and slept and flew with glamour. (I think she does mostly everything with glamour.) And how there were lessons there. When everyone posted on her Instagram feed, “You deserve this!” I replied to my NYC-charter-school-math-teaching phenom of a friend, “You most definitely do not deserve this. Enjoy the grace.” Thankfully she knew what I meant and agreed. Yes, there are lessons when you are staying at a castle in France.

But the lesson I’ve been graced with today finds me on the same mattress and box spring night after night, pinching my pennies for a bed frame from IKEA (so close!). This lesson comes from holding small hands in my own and being awed by the height and depth and width of this life that stays mainly in 1200 square feet.

Five Minute Friday

Lonely: Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday If you are new here, welcome! On Fridays I write with a community of those who love the written word and need to “just write, without worrying about getting it just right.” So we write for five minutes, without editing or over-thinking, and link up at Lisa-Jo Baker’s. Today’s prompt is lonely.

I awoke, startled, heart pounding with Hibo’s face only inches from mine. My husband was at school, teaching Level 3 grammar to students like Abdi-Waiss (who, no kidding, actually wrote “Your Name” on the top line of his exam when my husband told the students, “Write your name on the top line.” We miss Abdi-Waiss all the time.). I had dragged my mattress up to our flat roof where we slept when it was too hot and that first spring, it was always too hot.

I must have left the front door open and that might have piqued her interest. Or she knew my husband’s work schedule and she couldn’t help visiting when I might be alone. Whatever the reason, I awoke with her wide eyes and milk chocolate skin inches from my face. She told me, “I wanted to make sure you weren’t lonely.” So with adrenaline pumping and sweaty sleep marking my cheek, I sat up to reassure her that I wasn’t lonely.

I learned a whole new way of lonely in Cite Barwaqo. I had friends who confided in me that they hadn’t been alone in a room ever. In their whole lives. (They didn’t count being alone in the bathroom for a few moments.) So whenever I was home alone, they honored me with their visits. As an introvert, I often grumbled my way through the whole, “Who is it?” “It’s me!” conversation while I racked my brain for the voice that belonged to the “me” on the other side of the door. All I was really lonely for in those moments was a few moments alone.

Now I grow lonely in other ways. I’m lonely for neighbors who watch my door with such friendly intention that they knock precisely three minutes after I’ve been left alone. Lonely for sleeping under the stars and waking up one roof over from a strict Muslim man, both in our pajamas, both tacitly agreeing to pretend that we don’t see each other in the odd intimacy of the first moment awake while I grab a headscarf from next to my sleeping mat. Lonely for that dance of the market, surrounded by hundreds of people but not bumping or bumped. Lonely for afternoon snack time, the gorgeous laziness of a coastal desert culture waking up from an afternoon nap and needing something, anything to take away the taste of sleep. Lonely for life, really.

I live life here but I lived life there and so wherever I am, I have to hold open my hand to this loneliness that spills over. It never happens on Christmas morning in the Horn of Africa when my husband is supposed to work. Just like it doesn’t happen here on Eid. The small moments pierce me through. A whiff through the bus window that reminds me of August afternoons on the Long Island Sound in my dad’s 24 foot boat. The Sammy Youssouf track that pops up on iTunes and pulls me back to the life I’m not living at the moment, the life that is not on pause waiting for me either.

Story: Five Minute Friday

Five Minute FridayIt’s Friday! The day of flash-mob-writing group over here. As Lisa-Jo says, “…on Fridays a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write without worrying if it’s just right gather to share what five minutes buys them.”

He stretches all 32 pounds of himself out on my chest, his long legs nearing my knees these days and I can’t help but remember the day that they laid him on my chest for the very first time, slippery and (dare I say it?) slimy and squirming. The hormones were coursing through me and my arms were shaking and my voice was pleading for someone else to hold him, I was certain he was going to slip right off onto the unforgiving hospital floor.

There was the day he did slip off the bed and we thought all was well until we knew it wasn’t; his head didn’t have an egg but a grapefruit. And there is that moment when the X-ray technician tells you that you can’t leave the hospital and your stomach drops and you realize that in your rush, you never even put shoes on your older son. You don’t know anything but you know it’s bad.

Tonight he unfurls all 99th percentile of height and weight on my chest and I wonder what stories we will tell him. How those stories will shape him. What stories he will tell us in turn, after he’s old enough to know that there will be no consequences.

How we picked his name that means “happy.” Feeling the joy of knowing our family would grow. And his middle name: Emmanuel. Common-enough in East Africa where he was conceived, and we hope, where he will grow up. But a name that tells the unfathomable true story of God-with-us. A story of belonging.

How he would drag his brother’s Big Wheel to the road when I was distracted by a neighbor or a weedy garden and lifting his feet off the pavement, sail down the hill while I sprinted and panted and prayed to catch up, to catch him before a car did. Courageous stories.

How he would mimic his brother in goodness and in rebellion. How a hug from that older brother could soothe cries that no mother-love touched while a refusal to play from that brother meant the world was crashing in on him. Stories of love.

How his laugh infected us on our worst days and his arms folded across his chest six months before he should be able to throw a tantrum gave us a glimpse of God’s heart toward us, his ever-loved and often-obstinate children. Stories that made us who we are.

His eyelids flutter and I pray for his story, the one I will help shape, the one that is changing me every day.