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In which we plant gardens in South Africa

Blogging has made the world seem small to me, like we’re all a big family, but it’s made my world expand, too. Now it feels so normal to know and love people – not causes, not projects, not pictures, not stereotypes, not just stories, no, people! – all around the world. I’ve discovered men and women around the world who love, people who throw open doors, who work for justice, who plant gardens in exile.

Those kinds of people will change your life.

Today is Valentines Day. Usually as a SheLoves Community, we participate in a Valentines Day fundraiser for women – do you remember when we purchased identity cards for the women of Bubanza a couple of years ago? We all told our husbands or boyfriends or friends that instead of roses, that year all we wanted were blue identity cards (we even called them “blue roses”). It was amazing.

But this year, we’re taking a year off so instead, I’m throwing my heart in with my friend Lisa-Jo Baker and her family in South Africa.

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Check out her post today:

Love runs faster than fear. Love runs toward hopelessness. Love runs past doubt. Love runs the race wild and true and on shaking, determined knees.

Love runs to its friends and invites them in.

Love sees everyone as family and every day a start of something beautiful.  Love runs through doors even where there aren’t supposed to be any.

This is my family.

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You are my friends.

Here is the door.

I’m holding it open, run through and fall in love.

This plan has been a year in the making and the goal is to raise $150,000 to fund the entire project between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – because love is more than a date on the calendar, and it never leaves anyone out. And Mother’s Day is a 365 days a year adventure, always worth celebrating.

Phase 1: Community Vegetable Garden {watered by the water point you all built last fall}

Phase 2: Community Kitchen and Welcome Center

Phase 3: Community Outreach Hall

Phase 4: 12 Classrooms

Phase 5: Playground

Click here to donate.

Because there’s a whole community of women who are raising more kids than just their own and still have all the same hopes, dreams and fears that we do.

And there’s a whole community of kids who would tell you that there is nothing ordinary 

 

You see what I mean? This is Lisa-Jo’s family, her community, her heart. And because she’s my friend, I love her friends, too. And I want to be part of this community of women, to say “we love you and we stand with you” to them.

Click here for the full Pure Charity page for details and donating.

The first phase of the project is a community vegetable garden.

This is good ground – literally and figuratively.

Let’s plant a garden in South Africa today.

Continue Reading · love, social justice, women · 2

In which I am learning to live with the ache

Evelynn newborn

Evelynn at two months old, photo by Rachel Barkman Photography

Our old baby crib is now sitting in pieces in the garage. We will take it to the dump soon (it has one of those now-outlawed dropsides so we can’t resell it or donate it). Whole sections of the bars are gnawed to bare wood by little teething babies, there are bits of sticker glue and swipes of Sharpie marker here and there, the screws are a bit loose. It’s in rough shape after nearly eight years and three big babies-to-toddlers in quick succession. There are a lot of sacred memories hidden in that dismantled old crib. The day we took it apart, I cried over that junky old crib. Goodbye, old friend.

It is likely that there are no more babies for us.

I was never one of those girls who wanted to have a houseful of babies, who just wanted to get married and have babies and stay home with them. I mean, I was okay with kids but it wasn’t my thing. I quit babysitting at 14 because I figured there had to be a better way to make money than that. And even after our miscarriages and challenges with fertility, I was unprepared for how completely transformative I found motherhood, how I loved even the mundane dailyness, how I found joy here.

I know that everyone’s experience is different, and I’m not saying that mine is normative but it’s real and I can’t deny it: I came into myself when I became a mother. I was reborn, all over again. The experience of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding my babies profoundly changed me AND it changed my view of God entirely.

So, of course, it’s hard to know that stage of my life is done now.

But it is.

It’s likely that I won’t ever be pregnant again, that I won’t carry a baby within me again, that I won’t ever give birth again. (Yes, I’m one of those awful women who loves pregnancy and giving birth.) When I think about not breastfeeding – one of the most real things I’ve ever done with this body – ever again, I catch my breath with longing.

And yet, I love this new stage of life with the tinies. Just when I think we’re at my favourite stage with them, something new comes along and I think, “oh, wow! no, this part is my favourite!”

People tell you a lot about how much parenting will change your life and they’re right. But usually they mean that you won’t ever sleep in again (you won’t) and a few other things about how much we “give up” to become parents. No one tells you how much you’re going to laugh. No one tells you how much wisdom resides in these small humans, how much they will teach you about love and life and friendship and forgiveness and worship. No one tells you how good and freeing it is to leave your selfishness behind. No one tells you about recapturing your own wonder and innocence, about re-reading the Ramona books, about playing football in the basement, about birthday parties and snow days and every day beauty. All the best things I know about the big nouns and verbs of a life came back into my life because of them.

But there likely won’t be anymore Bessey babies for us. Our family is complete, it seems, we’ll always be a Five-Family, as the tinies call us. There are many personal reasons why we’ve come to this decision as a family.

In my head, I know that this is the right decision. In my heart, I know this is the right decision. Brian and I are in complete agreement.

And yet there is The Ache.

Always The Ache, right underneath my lungs, in the pit of my gut, the ache of what that means and the grief of moving on, of love, of knowing: No more babies. No more nursing quietly in the night. No more flour sack of milk-drunk baby bliss. No more gummy smiles. No more tiny diapers. No more baby clothes. No more crib. No more baby wearing. No more new baby smell. No more of the millions of moments that knit your heart so completely to another small soul.

The season of having babies – the one that so radically changed me – is over. I’m okay with that. Most days, I’m even very happy about it, relieved perhaps. It’s an intense season of life, make no mistake. We’re ready for this new season, looking forward with anticipation to new things. Other days, it’s hard.

I know we like to pretend like we can have everything all at once. It’s a nice illusion. But there are transitions in our lives: times for certain seasons and times when those seasons end. Are we happier for pretending that we can have everything anytime we like? Or are we better when we acknowledge the end of one chapter of our lives, grieve and sing and give weight to the passing of it, and move forward? To everything, there is a season.

I am starting to think that, no matter how many children we have, no matter the reasons why, no matter how old we are, when you’re done having babies, we always carry The Ache.

I have a friend who had six children, and she said that she had The Ache when they were done. I have other friends who had two, who had The Ache. Other friends who had four or five or six. I have friends who are in their thirties with toddlers, in their forties with teenagers, other women in their fifties and menopausal, and they still talk about The Ache: I miss that still, they say wistfully. That was a nice time in my life.

I don’t know that we ever lose that ache. I don’t know if we ever get rid of it. I don’t know if we should. Maybe it’s meant to be there with us. So I’m learning to live with The Ache now.

I’m learning to let it be there, part of me, probably always a part of me, without justification or change of circumstance. When you have been given the tremendous gift of being able to have a baby, to give birth to that baby, to love that baby, it marks you. It should, perhaps, and so this season has marked more than just my stretched-out body, it has marked my soul.

The Ache reminds me of the great and terrible beauty I have seen, of what love I have experienced, of the sorrow and brokenness of loss, of all the love that is still here, of the wonder and miracle of life, of the sweetness of co-creation, of the labour and release, of transcendence.

Praise God, my babies are growing up and that is its own joy and beauty. I’ll miss toddlers in the same way, I’ll miss preschoolers, I’ll miss their kindergarten self, their Grade Two self, as well, and so on through their lives.

Right now, the Ache is for no more babies in my life. This was a beautiful time in my life, please notice that it’s changing. But the Ache changes and grows as we move through our years, I imagine, perhaps in proportion to the life we live, the love we gather and give. Someday, I’ll miss these very days, talk about them with the same language, perhaps.

And in another few years, the blink of an eye, I’ll be sitting in a house, alone: the laundry will be done at last, the house will be clean – and it will stay clean, and the floors will be quiet, no one will be asking me for anything at all, my time will be my own, and I will feel the full weight of The Ache for which I’ve been holding vigil at last. 

It’s simply the Ache of time passing, because this is what time does, and our souls are noticing the passing of a season, and it’s okay. It’s okay to let it Ache. It means we’re living and it means we’re loving our life as it stands, loving it enough to notice a transition away.

I am making my peace with The Ache, holding a bit of space for its presence in my life today. Someday it will be my old friend.

Continue Reading · baby, babywearing, family, giving birth, gratitude, journey, love, parenting, women · 359

In which romance shows up in the interruptions

I think that someday, when I am old, I will be glad that I wrote this down. (These are the days we will have to remember someday.) Isn’t that the way it is with these moments? The small moments, the small decisions, make up a life worth remembering and I want to make more room in my life (and so my writing) to remember them. Even if it’s just for me. Simple stories still matter to me.

The girls were playing dress-up while Joe was downstairs playing Legos after supper. I left Brian to the dishes to pretty up their hair and apply my bright lipstick to their small mouths as a special treat. We sprayed perfume into the air and moved through the mist. They paraded up and down the house, grandly greeting each other turn after turn: “Why hello, Miss Evelynn, pleasure to see you.” They decided to have a ball and so I opened iTunes on the computer. The laptop keys are sticky and there are smears on the screen: family computer, it seems.

Brian and I switched spots and he scooped them up in his arms, a dish towel flung over his shoulder. The girls danced with their dad, and I cleaned the kitchen, humming along, watching them all. The girls drifted off to another game and we settled back to our work, we always do. There’s a lot to do: a lot of work, a lot of bills, a lot of commitments, go go go.

On these nights, romance smells like butter and garlic, dish soap and clean skin. On a whim, I turned on Andrew Peterson’s song “Dancing in the Minefields” and, without words, we turned to each other, held on and danced. Romance shows up in the interruptions.

Even when we are tired or we aren’t speaking the same language or we are out of step, we still know enough to turn towards each other when the music starts.

Evelynn came barrelling in to the room (she barrels into every room) and charged at us: me too! me too! me too! We picked her up and we danced, and Anne wormed her way in, then Joe wandered upstairs and we were dancing like a messy rugby scrum, shuffling and swaying and out of step, five people crammed into one embrace.

I laid my head on his chest like I haven’t done in a while, he kissed my hair, I knew he was smiling, and Evelynn laid her face right next to mine, nose to nose. Anne was hanging on to me at the south, Joe to the north.

I make a lot of mistakes in this marriage, I’m sure he’d say the same, but we always find our way back to this. I found myself singing along: at the end of all my fear, to the end of all my days, when I forget my name, remind me. 

Continue Reading · brian, family, love, love looks like, marriage · 28

In which {love looks like} your own story, a guest post for RHE

I love when Rachel Held Evans puts on her Teaching Hat. This week, she’s writing through what Mutual Submission (sometimes called Mutuality) – the theology, the Scriptures, how it translates to our real lives and marriages, all of it. It’s a necessary and much-needed conversation within the Church and Rachel has done serious research, called in the experts, and is highlighting posts on Twitter from other writers. Most of you know that Rachel and I have become friends (she even wrote the Foreword for my book) and I respect her more than I could express properly. She’s everything she appears – generous, kind, wise, funny, self-deprecating and usually the smartest person in the room – and so I’m flat-out honoured to contribute to her series on marriages of mutuality. You can follow all activity relating to this series on Twitter with the hashtag #OneToAnother.

I know that principles are useful and helpful, I do, but for some reason, they just don’t sum up what it means to love Jesus, do they? When I try to describe the spirit-filled life of living loved, I resort to metaphors and stories: I’ll stumble through the words of John 15 about life in the vine or say phrases like “live and move and have our being” and sometimes I talk about Isaiah or maybe shepherds and sheep who know His voice, but usually  I am left saying “it’s like this…” and then I am only bearing witness to the Spirit’s movement in my own life and the Love who transforms me.  I have a hard time to explaining it because it’s so inherent to my life: this is the way, and I walk in it.

Maybe that is the difference between religious performance and relaxing into a relationship. My faith is now a dance between the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures and my community, it’s alive. I’m being changed from the inside out, and I want to prophetically live the ways of Jesus into every corner of my small existence. I know where I belong and I know my true identity at last.

Against my usually-better-than-this judgement, I began to write online about my marriage a few years ago. I never write about how to have a good marriage – there is nary a principle or seven-step plan to be found. Instead, I write about what love looks like for us.

In the same way that the longer I know and love our Jesus, then the less I want to write or pontificate about Being a Good Christian, it seems that the longer I’m married, the less I want to write or pontificate about Having A Good Marriage. Now I just want to read dog-eared poetry books and cook his meals, argue with him about theology and then kiss him on the kitchen floor.

Please click here to read the rest of this post at Rachel Held Evans’ blog….

Continue Reading · Guest Post, love, love looks like, marriage · 1