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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 · 23

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

In which I don’t mind if my tinies see me on the computer

 

There was a bit of a movement underway a few years ago: Christian women were signing pledges saying that they wouldn’t let their tinies see them on the computer. I think their intentions were mostly good – they knew they were distracted by social media in particular, perhaps, and so they wanted to give their best attention to their children. That idea continues to hang on somehow, particularly in my line of work.

I understand it. Of course, 8 hours of Facebook to the exclusion of fully being present with our families is damaging. And I am wise with my time on social media, not only for their sakes but for my own creativity, health, sanity, and proper sense of perspective. (For instance, when my husband gets home and asks me about my day, I don’t like for my first answer to be, “well, you wouldn’t BELIEVE what this one guy said on Twitter or how many likes this Instagram picture of the kid I neglected all day received!” Not exactly healthy.)

But here’s the thing: I work from our home on a – wait for it – computer. My husband works out of our home full-time in a pretty demanding job with irregular hours occasionally. I am the primary caregiver for our tinies. Granted, we have a (very beloved) baby-sitter for our littlest girl two mornings a week while the older two are at school, so that I can make phone calls, do interviews, and work uninterrupted for a bit of time, but I am usually at home, trying to get in a full-time job at the edges of our life.

Being a work-from-home mother can feel like a juggling act, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love this choice.

Through trial and error, we’ve learned that our family works best in this way with one parent more fully engaged during the day, but I know that I am privileged to be a work-at-home mother. I do not take it for granted, even though there are occasional afternoons when I pick up the tinies from school and then turn on Wild Kratts, hand them a plate of apple quarters with goldfish crackers, and then sit down to answer emails for an hour before supper. There are mornings when the baby and I take the tinies to school, and then come home to a wide-open toy box for her and an open laptop for me to write an article to deadline. When I am interrupted, there are times when I put my work aside, absolutely, but then there are times when I hand her a book and say, “Mum is writing, we’ll go to the park in an hour. Find something to do.”

Early into our family arrangement, I had to take a long hard look at the narrative that it was a shameful thing for my tinies to see me on the computer.

And then, thoughtfully, prayerfully, we decided to call complete and utter crap on any more needless mum-guilt.

I don’t feel guilty when my tinies see me cooking supper. That’s part of our life – and in fact, it creates a great opportunity to be together, to prepare them for life, to teach, to have fun.

I don’t feel guilty when my tinies see me cleaning the house. Keeping our home clean and tidy is part of my life – and it is part of theirs, too, unless I want to have lazy and entitled teenagers someday. Can I get an amen?

I don’t feel guilty taking them along when we get groceries or pay bills or drop off library books or help others or any other of the chores and tasks and work that goes into running this little family.

Maybe my prairie kid work ethic is showing. My grandpa raised our clan to know that truth: work is honourable. Now I’ve rounded that out with the belief that work is also a gift from God, part of our heritage as co-creators with God. Particularly when our work – paid or unpaid – is personally fulfilling, an act of creativity or beauty or usefulness. What a gift to be able to work!

So, is it a shameful thing for a mother to work on the computer while her children are present? Nope.

Not only is it not damaging to my tinies to see me – gasp! – working on the computer while they’re here, I believe it’s downright good for them.

Yes, it is good for them to discover right now that they are not the centre of the universe. To let them discover ways to entertain themselves – I’m not their cruise director. To let them see their dad choring around on a Saturday, make sure they grab a broom and sweep up drywall dust alongside of him. To let them grab a rag and a bottle of vinegar to pitch in with Thursday cleaning. To let them learn to fold socks. To let the tinies sweep the floors.

Welcome to being part of a functioning family, for heaven’s sake.

(This home doesn’t run by magic or pixie dust: welcome to the real world, darlings.)

In addition to that, we have decided it is GOOD for the tinies to see me loving my job, loving my work, being good at something, and actually doing it. To let them see me being faithful to my calling, let them see their dad empowering me to do it with his enthusiastic blessing, let them see it as part of our family’s gift to the world.

This is what we do in this family: we support each other in our work and in our callings and even in the things we just plain love to do.

Mothers are people, too.

(And, very quietly, I’ll also gently point out right here the privilege inherent in the idea that we can choose whether or not our children see us work.)

Let the tinies learn what it looks like to be a person, made in the image of God, working – no matter if our work happens on computers or at the laundry or on the job site or the classroom – as unto the Lord. Let them see us working: work is a honourable thing.

 image source: Getty Images Lean In Collection as shown on Buzzfeed

Continue Reading · family, parenting, women, work · 110

In which it snows in the morning

Every day do something that won't compute :: Sarah Bessey

Wake up to a brighter bedroom, the snow has been falling outside all night. Take a lazy look around the room, look at the life it is reflecting back to you: a sturdy homemade bed; tangled and worn white sheets; a man with a beard is sleeping, his hand still resting on your spine; bright yellow baby rainboots tossed in a corner; piles of books. Stretch the length of your life.

The tinies will come clumping down the hall soon, their voices filled with wonder: “Mum! It snowed!” That man you kissed last night will roll out of the bed because Sundays are your day to sleep in, a deal’s a deal, you do Saturdays. But you both know you won’t go back to sleep – you never do. Watch him head upstairs to the ministry of coffee and Bubble Guppies on Netflix.

Get out of the bed and go to the window, look out into the forest. The snow is still falling, thick and lazy, almost predictably. Open the window for a few moments, just to smell it. Crawl back into your bed, pull up the covers, and grab a book. Once a week, you get to read first thing when you wake up and so here is a stack of Wendell Berry and Flannery O’Connor and Luci Shaw, practice the resistance of reading of good books.

When you go upstairs in an hour, make a pot of tea. No solitary mugs will do for a snowy Sunday, get out the big sturdy brown pot and your mother’s discarded delicate white teacups, the ones with blue and silver flowers on the rim. Hug your babies, good morning, good morning, yes, I see you. Listen to the dishwasher chug, everything is brighter and slower when it snows.

Church is cancelled, you’re pretty sure everyone is relieved for a day off anyway, an excuse to stay in their jammies, watch movies, work puzzles, roll in the snow, read novels. The more judicious might catch up on housework, pay the bills online, answer emails: the kindred spirits will make a bit of room for delicious indolence.

Decide to do something real today, then bake a loaf of bread. Yeast, flour, water, salt – simple is good for the soul and the belly. Guide small hands into kneading properly, let everything rise in its time.

Scratch a few lines into a journal. Write a bit but try not get frustrated because you are interrupted seven times in fifteen minutes. Read a psalm. Pray in the shower. Listen as you go through your day. Clean the kitchen. Bath a baby. Make the beds. Use the good dishes for a lunch of plain soup. Scatter children’s books around the house like bait. Put on lipstick. Flirt in the kitchen in quiet saucy voices. Comfort tired children, prescribe naps and quilts with seriousness. Promise a movie later on. Later when the snow settles, you’ll go for a walk in the dim, into the in-between for a conversation with yourself, you’ll be so relieved to be away from them all for a few moments but yearning to return to them all by the end of the block.

Watch the snow fall in the ordinary beauty of a Sabbath spent practicing what makes you feel most fully human.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, enough, family, gratitude, love, marriage · 15