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In which it all locks into place

joehospital3

Sometimes your world locks into place.

When your son is complaining that his legs hurt and you roll up the legs of his jeans, fully expecting a bruised knee or a scrape to find something else entirely – red lesions and large bumps. And then you rush part of your heart to the emergency room.

When you are rocking in an old rocking chair, perhaps, creaking back and forth beside a gurney bed with a small boy perched atop, chatting like a magpie. The ceiling tiles have been replaced with plexiglass sky pictures, there are animal decals on the walls, and vitals are being taken every forty five minutes. When you wait for answers and every hour that passes takes the easy answers away.

When you watch the tests being run, when you hold your child down so that blood can be drawn, when you depend on others to bring you food, when the paediatrician made your tired boy laugh and you could have hugged him for that alone, let alone for the first answers of the long day. An odd sort of infection but complications. Perhaps it’s when you follow a child’s wheelchair into paediatrics and make phone calls with lists of overnight requirements.

But really, it was when it was time for the IV to be inserted and your child suffered so mightily, with such cries and tears and begging for relief, that was the moment when the world locked into place. Here is what matters: I want my children to be healthy. I want them to sleep well under my gaze, I want them to play and grow and laugh. I want them whole. I want to hold them close to me and rescue them. I want to take away the pain, I would take his place, I would, I would, set him free.

But the days unfold, one after another. You become thankful for the hospital in a real visceral way, like you are only thankful for food after becoming aware of its absence. You count heartbeats and vials of blood and IV bags. You count on nurses and decide that you will picket on their side the next time they want a raise. You crawl into what your son calls The Transformer Bed and you curl yourself around your child, patient together. You forget about Twitter entirely, you can’t even read a book right now, you simply want to sit in the time. Nothing else, no one else matters.

Your circle becomes very small. If you want to know who matters, who has your trust, ask yourself who you call, who you tell, who you trust with the details at this moment.

You haven’t cried yet. Just keep going, just keep going. There are things to do, you know. “How are you?” your people ask, and you keep saying you are fine. Fine. Fine, thanks.

The answers come and the risks decrease with each slow hour that passes in that tiny quarantine room with the big windows looking out on the highway. You watch old episodes of the Magic School Bus and skip meals and drink coffee. You knit round after round after round of the lace centrepiece. You marvel at your child: his laughter, his delight in small details, the way he turns everything about this ridiculous experience into a joy, the little charmer. The only time he cries is when he talks about how much he misses his sisters. You read his books out loud, make him stretch his legs every couple of hours.

Then there was the moment when your husband sent you home to sleep at last. You hadn’t slept in days, maybe that’s the reason why the sight of him there in that hospital bed beside the child you both love did you in. You kissed him heavily because here is someone who loves your child the way that you love your child. This is what love looks like: tired faces, relief, exhaustion, and still one foot in front of the other, caring for each other at the same time you care for the tinies, watching Backyardigans with your full attention.

By the last day, the threat of infection is long past, so you bring in one sister for a visit. They sit on the bed together, playing Mario Kart and roaring with laughter, happy to be together again. You take pictures with the phone, letting them make silly faces, creating videos for memories now that the fear is gone.

joehospital2

joehospital1

It’s time to escape at last: your son’s energy is at full-throttle again, his arms covered in bruises from so many needles, his legs healing nicely, his organs safe, so you sign the forms, pack the bags. As you walk past the nursing station, he says matter-of-factly “Thanks for all your hard work, guys” like he does this every week, ain’t no thing. See you later, alligators.

And then home.

This is when your world locked into place, it will begin to move again tomorrow. You’ll work again, you’ll waste time watching television, you’ll clean the washrooms, you’ll make supper, you’ll check Facebook, you’ll shout at him about the Legos all over the house. But right now, you simply sink to your knees in the living room because all of your children are at home with you and then you weep at last.

 

Continue Reading · family, Joseph, moments · 44

In which I’ll do the dishes :: a guest post by Zach Hoag

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

(Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books, encourage people to work through the discussion questions, and also introduce my readers to some exciting new-to-you voices!)

From Chapter 3: Tangled Roots

Think about how gender differences were framed for you as a child or as a new believer. What stands out to you looking back? What do you understand as truth today?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

Today, Zach Hoag of The Nuance is responding to our question.

 

Dad never did the dishes.

Not once.

He never cooked a meal, either. Or balanced a checkbook. Or cleaned the bathroom.

And even though there were never discussions about “complementarianism” in our third-wave, charismatic Christian home, there was a functional expectation of fixed gender roles. Dad fancied himself an apostle-Paul type, determining that chores were “not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). Never mind that the verse was ripped out of the context of equipping qualified leaders to serve the widows in the community – the Spirit-led application was that he would study the Word and lead the family while Mom did everything else.

As I began to grab hold of my own faith in my late teens, I was swept off my feet by Reformed theology. Where the fast and loose Pentecostalism of my parents had essentially led our ministry family to ruin, the Reformation seemed to offer stability. Ironically, the gender roles pushed by newfound heroes like John Piper were not too dissimilar from those lived out by my tongue-talking folks. As a result, I became all the more convinced of my biblically-mandated responsibility to exercise authority over my future wife. I would not serve tables. I would get in the Word, run things, and make decisions. And she would do the rest.

During my first year of marriage, both my Reformed theology and my rigid gender roles began quickly crumbling. I did not marry a woman without a will, sans a personality. And I loved her too much to mimic the domineering behavior I saw demonstrated in the Reformed Baptist church we attended. I also loved her too much to see her forced into the mold that so many women in our church had submitted to. Even as my own immature theologized machismo was being confronted at every turn by the real, strong, passionate person I was living with, an entire theological system I had bought into was losing its structural integrity.

And finally, it fell.

The end result is a marriage that has become fully and completely equal and mutual in a way that neither my childhood nor my Calvinistic cage phase could have prepared me for. Our roles as husband and wife are anything but fixed. Instead, they are fluid.

It is not my place to have my way, do my thing (even if it’s my Jesus thing), and expect my wife to do the rest. No, it’s my place to serve. And to contribute. And collaborate. And lead. And submit to my wife’s leadership. 50/50, all the way.

I’m a Jesus Feminist because I now believe it is my place to serve tables. And clean the bathroom. And balance the checkbook. And change the diapers. And get the four-year-old ready for bed.

And even though I’m a pretty worthless cook, it’s the least I can do to submit to my spouse, roll up my sleeves, and do the dishes every once and awhile - you know, out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

 

zachZach J. Hoag is a church planter and missional minister from the least religious city in the least religious state in the U.S. – Burlington, Vermont. He wrote a book called Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, and he blogs at The Nuance on Patheos. Most importantly, he binge-watches cable TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

Continue Reading · faith, family, Guest Post, Jesus Feminist · 46

In which I stand for them :: a guest post by Amena Brown

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

From Chapter 3: Tangled Up Roots

How did your parents’ stories or family history impact your understanding of God and your place in the kingdom?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

Today, spoken word poet and writer, Amena Brown is responding to our question.

***

I come from a long line of preachers, musicians, ministers, praying people, and altar builders. My great great great grandfather was a runaway slave. When he made his way to freedom he discarded his slave master’s name for a name he chose for himself, John Dabaptist Brown, which is how my dad’s side of the family inherited Brown as a last name.

My great grandfather, John David Brown, became a bishop in the Church of God in Christ. Most of his children became ministers, including my grandfather, John, who I grew up watching preach. Bishop Brown’s grandson, my dad James, also became a minister who played keys and built altars with his bare hands.

On my mom’s side, my great great grandfather was a sharecropper and pastor. My Great Grandma Sudie never held a ministry position or title, but she taught me my first hymns and bible books. My Grandma, affectionately known as Mother Lee, played piano for church choirs starting at the age of twelve. My mom’s relationship with God was my first testament that Jesus was not a fictional character or a religious figure; that he was real and present and that connection to him was life changing.

I always have a moment, right before I go on stage, a moment where I don’t feel sophisticated, or awesome, or worthy. A moment where I still feel like the girl with the unfashionable mushroom hairdo and big glasses, the nerd who would rather find her face in a book than have an awkward conversation. And I wonder why would God choose me? Why should anyone out there listen to me or hear what I have to say?

Then I think of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ancestors throughout my bloodline who I never had the opportunity to meet. I remember that I come from a line of righteousness. Not perfect people, but hard-working, bible-reading, Jesus-preaching people. I remember that many of them prayed for me even though they knew they’d never get the chance to meet me.

I’ll remember my Grandma Sudie gathering the mothers of the church in her living room and feeling their prayers like dew on my skin while they held hands and waited for the Spirit to move. I’ll remember sitting in the wood pews of a church my great grandfather built, where my grandfather learned to preach, where my dad directed the choir and played piano.

I remember the joy in my grandma’s fingers when she played the piano keys with such strength as if the weight of her fingers could force more hope out of those hymnal words. I remember how my mom can hear worry or doubt or hopelessness in your voice, how she won’t just promise to pray for you later. To to her any conversation is a few words away from being a prayer. She’ll talk to God about you right then, in the middle of your tears, in the middle of your mind’s curse words.

I think of them and remember when I walk on stage with my head up and shoulders back. I stand for them; to represent the lives they lived, what they sacrificed, that they are a part of the reason I’m here. Hopefully I stand here in my generation, so someone else can stand in the place they are called to long after I’m gone.

I’m reminded that it’s God who makes me worthy and that I’ll never quite understand why he chose someone with all of my insecurities, misgivings, and weird things, but he did. So instead of fighting him on that, each time I walk with him, right up to that microphone, standing on the prayers of righteous people that were here generations before me, hoping to speak the truth, hope, love, and grace that they lived and died for.

As I walk offstage, I’ll hum a hymn my grandmother taught me and be thankful.

 

Continue Reading · family, Guest Post, Jesus Feminist · 25

In which I need to stay home

On Tuesday, I was supposed to get on a plane headed to Winnipeg for the YWAM Peace & Justice Institute. I have loved Jamie & Kim Arpin-Ricci’s work in Winnipeg for years now. They are the real deal and I was giddy at the thought of being with them, becoming real friends perhaps.

But instead, we have cancelled the event. I need to stay home. We have kept rather quiet this week as we’ve walked through the days but since we cryptically said it was a “family emergency” many kind people have reached out to check on us. So I thought I’d let you know what has been happening.

Our five-year-old son came down with a rather common illness last week, but when he was treated with the antibiotic, he had a severe allergic reaction to one of the drugs. It was scary, I admit. He was so swollen, he was covered in an angry red raised rash, he couldn’t open his eyes, he didn’t look like himself, but scariest of all, he couldn’t breathe well.

I’m so thankful for our local ER and hospital, for our nurses and doctors. They rushed us right through and gave him the medicine he needed to breathe without making him feel more afraid. I didn’t know what in the world was going on but in those moments, all I could do was cradle a too-tall boy in my lap, stay calm, and pray without words.

Help us. Help us. Fix this. Fix this.

Sometimes it feels like time stops and we are hyper-aware of our surroundings. We feel the plastic of the chair, notice the ticking of the clock more clearly, see that our hands are holding on tight, our bodies swaying slowly in the comfort-dance of motherhood: it’s fine, I’ve got you, it’s fine, I’ve got you.

We did get to bring him home later that day: looking like hell, but breathing well on his own, fever down. He is on the slow mend now, poor boy, but it has been a long few days. It will be seven to ten days before he gets the all clear. He is taking all of this the way he takes everything: easily, in stride, no complaints, matter of fact boy. They say we were lucky.

Lucky.

“Help. Thanks. Wow.” … Indeed, Saint Anne.

Since he needs monitoring, even during the night, due to the possibility of relapse, I’m staying home from Winnipeg. Jamie and Kim have been so supportive and understanding, I am thankful for their grace in these days.

I am terribly sorry for the fuss, for the inconvenience, for the disappointment. I feel it, too.

But I need to be home.

Thank you for your prayers and for your understanding.

 

Continue Reading · family · 40