Category Archives: Clarkston

What is White Privilege?

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I don’t know.

I don’t know because I’ve realized how very blind to it I am.

Three years ago or so, Doug and I sat at dinner with five friends. We were lingering over a post-dessert conversation at the end of a long workweek.

Between them, these friends are terribly high achieving and extremely interesting, not to mention very engaged in deploying their gifts toward the edification of the world around them.

To sum them up in resume form, just from what I know based on casual conversation, I can tell you that –

One went to boarding school.

One grew up in the city as an immigrant and got a scholarship to college.

Three are coaches with multiple state championships under their belts.

One is a PhD.

One is an attorney.

Two are teachers, at least one of whom manages a class size of 40+ on a regular basis.

Two are entrepreneurs.

One is a step-parent.

One is an author.

One grew up in the Midwest and left.

One grew up in Clarkston and stayed.

One is a Bulldog.

One is a Seminole.

One is a millennial.

All of them love teenagers, their family, and mybackyard chickens.

They are my friends. Casual friends. Back porch friends.

And they are also African-American.

So this night, Doug and I sat with them, winding the evening down. The dinner party for the cross-country team that three of them coached slowly turned into a grown-up chat after the teenagers had gone home.

There was much laughter. A lot of proverbial elbowing the others’ ribs.

But there was something else. Something truly mind-blowing for me.

As Doug and I walked back up to our house after we said our goodbyes, we looked at each other and asked, “Have you ever been a part of a conversation like that?” We both agreed. “No. Never.”

As the evening had faded, our forward thinking, educated, just-like-us-in-so-many ways friends had discussed the severe and pressing problem they faced: race.

Not as it related to them. Not really, anyways.

It was about the students they loved.

These students, many of them, were African. And soon would be absorbed into the American culture that would only understand them to be African-American…black men and women entering college or making their way into the workforce.

My friends – these teachers and lovers of students – were discussing how they were doing their level best to prepare the students for the realities of race in America. Students from Congo, South Sudan, Eritrea, and all over Africa, had landed in Clarkston as refugees…largely unaware of the race “issue” in this country. My friends discussed and even lamented how challenging it was to teach the students that, despite the vows to the contrary, all is not equal in this great country. To teach them how to successfully navigate the challenges of failed or failing systems that are poisoned by racial bias. How to be black in America and to do so with dignity, with promise, and with safety.

Doug and I looked at each other, shocked at what we’d overheard. Never in our lives had we had discussions with our teenagers (or any teenagers we love) to prepare them to be “white in America.” No thought of that reality needing any explanation, any caution, any thought about treading lightly or not treading at all. Not once. In all of our adult life, race has never been the thing in an adult conversation that caused us all to nod our heads in assent, knowing “just how you feel.” You don’t “feel” white in America. At least I don’t. I just am white. No feelings attached.

Not so for my friends.

The strong thread of “we must prepare them to navigate this reality” ran through a conversation inhabited by men and women from different states, different economic backgrounds, different educational experiences, and different genders. Nevertheless, all five of my friends know personally and deeply that there is an endemic problem – no matter where they come from or what other kinds of privilege they have experienced along the way.

What is white privilege? I really don’t know. But sometimes I return to an analogy from a blog I read a long time ago. The author said that white privilege is analogous to driving a car on a system of roads designed for car-drivers and that being anything but white is like trying to ride a bicycle on the same roads. Most car drivers aren’t “trying” to mow over, crowd out, speed past, or overlook the existence of the bike rider. It’s just the reality of the system. But it’s dangerous, slow, and extraordinarily frustrating to the bike rider.Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 8.16.15 AM

I, Karen, may not be “racist” in my opinions or my actions. But I exist in a system that caters to me. My whole life – my past, my present, and my future – has been and likely will be navigable, obvious, and relatively safe. If I want to care for my neighbors, especially those of a different race, I would do well to recognize and try to repair the injustices of the system. I would do well to recognize, listen, yield, and give space. I would do well to slow down and understand enough to “feel” my whiteness.

I would do well to talk to the teenagers I love about what it means to be white in America…how to carry their reality as graciously and well as my thoughtful backyard-dinner-party friends want to teach their students to carry their racial reality.

How does faith fit here? More ways that I know, to be sure. But, Jesus was a brown, poor, provincial man on the wrong side of religious systems and political systems. Being crossways with these systems cost Him His very life. His human “otherness” was a very real issue for him.

He was also the Immanuel-God. The God with us. He walked with us and showed us what it means to humbly walk with the “other.” Racism and systemic injustice is not a new problem, but it’s the path of His experience and His example. A path He gives us grace to fumble through. We won’t get it right, but now seems like the right time to embark on the path of humble understanding.

Charlottesville is indicative of so much. So much I really do not even begin to understand.

But I can tell you that as much as I don’t understand my privilege, I have seen that it is real. In this town, where I’m a minority, I see that systems really ARE broken. Racism really IS still an everyday problem. There is still MUCH work to be done.

How to move forward?

Probably over dinner. With a friend. Of a different race, religion, or ethnicity.

And a conversation.

About what the roads are like. And how to work together to make them better.

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It’s Raining…

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In our newly-renovated house we have a metal exhaust pipe that releases air to the outside from the vent over the stove.  When it rains, the drops ping on the hollow metal and echo into the kitchen.  Ping…plop…ding.

This rain-music is one of my favorite new house sounds.  A surprise sound – one that slows time whenever I hear it. It makes me pause, waiting for the next metallic “…plop.”

The last few weeks, I have experienced the heart-sounds of raindrops in Clarkston.  We’ve been here seven months.  We’ve been largely just living, entertaining opportunities here and there as they have arisen. But lately, it’s starting to rain drops of opportunity, and my heart gladdens with the knowledge we are growing roots here.

The most beautiful part about these drops of connection is recognizing our powerlessness to generate them.  They are His.

A block party thrown with fun neighbors that pulled from every diverse corner of our city. It was a menagerie of personality and smiles, and it came in the middle of a long and frustrating run of crime in our area.  A bright spot and a collaboration.

A desire expressed by some moms at our kids’ school to learn about this city, its people, and opportunities to connect.  We have luncheon plans brewing for early November.  A chance to share the beauty of this place.

A victory won by Clarkston’s cross-country team at our kids’ school’s invitational meet.  This delightful intersection of worlds generated a dinner at our house with the Clarkston coaches and a possibility for future connection between the teams.  Amazing grace.

Watching where God chooses to stir up growth and where He allows lingering hard soil is fascinating.  We would have chosen other spots to see growth – success for our refugee friend’s job at the school, quicker building for new neighbors in the subdivision, more fruit from a serving fair at church last month.  More success growing from seeds we’ve planned, dreamed, and worked.

…But God.

Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain? Or can the heavens grant showers? Is it not You, O Lord our God? Therefore we hope in You, for You are the one who has done all these things.” Jeremiah 14:22

Update

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The last week has been my hardest one in Clarkston.  It held the very thing I was so afraid of, three years ago, when Doug shared his desire for our family to adopt a refugee family.  It held failure, brokenness, and deep relational pain.

I mentioned last time I posted that we had met a new friend in a parking lot in one of the apartment complexes in March.  He is a refugee from Ethiopia who speaks six languages and who has come to Clarkston via a very long and winding road with his thirteen-year-old son.  His wife and their two younger children are still not here yet.

He waits for so much.

When we met him, he was waiting for a job.  When we serendipitously ran into him again (same parking lot) in late July, he was waiting for a job…still.

The door opened ten days later for him to work at our children’s school via a temp agency that they use for their facilities staffing.  God’s hand was evident in the coming together of the details, and our new friend had a new job.  It was a good one – daytime hours, more than minimum wage by a fair bit, and offered us the chance to get to know him better as we drove him to and from work on our way to and from school every day.

Hope is beautiful.  It came alive in his countenance.  He dreamed big, grateful dreams out loud in sixth language English…

    “I tell my son he can be President of the United States!”

    “You to come to Africa with my family?  I show you my country!”

    “How much is car? How much is house?”

    “Job is good.  Very good.  Thank you for job.”

Three weeks of gorgeous hope.

Loss in the face of that much hope is devastating. Sickening.  Disgusting.

A week ago, our friend was sick.  His cheerleaders and teammates (his boss, my husband) told him the day before he was sick to be sure to call the temp agency if he could not come to work the following day.  He did not call.  He did not respond to Doug’s texts or calls.  He called (finally) at 2:30 pm and communicated what he thought best.  His words were received by the staffing agency as a lie. The combination of the late call and the perceived lie were enough to cost him this new job.

All week I have agonized.  “What if I had…?”  “What if he had…?” “What if the school had…?” “What if Doug had…?”  “What if his boss had…?”  “What if the agency had…?” 

Only one intervention on anyone’s part would have made the difference for him.  There was no intervention.

We found out (too late) that his pre-paid phone was out of minutes, which was why Doug’s messages had not gotten through.  He told Doug had used his son’s phone to call the agency in the afternoon.

We still don’t know whether the “lie” was a language-barrier misunderstanding, an attempt to deflect blame, or even a culturally different way to approach the hierarchical system of boss and employee.  Whatever it was, he used the wrong words to explain his lack of a call.  If only he had known…

I met with the school to share his story and convey the fact that Doug and I were on his team – to try to ask for mercy.  I was met with a lot of understanding, empathy, and care, but the communication even in that meeting was muddled and confused to the point that it moved the ball forward…none at all. The chapter is closed. Our friend cannot go back.

So the week has been rough.

I’ve spent a lot of time bargaining with God and asking Him “why?”  I am sure that our friend has spent so much more time doing the same thing.  We are still not sure he really understands how and why this all happened.  We are stymied and heartbroken.

Why do I write this story today, on this three-day weekend where those of us who are work-weary sleep in, cook out, do laundry, and meander through 72 hours of government sanctioned rest?

I write to tell you that Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He knows, first hand, the brokenness of our world and He was broken for it.  I write to tell you that it’s harder to hold onto the sorrowful Jesus than the one who multiplies food and calms seas, but He’s the same Jesus – just as trustworthy and true.  He calls us to enter into the sorrow of the world and to be broken with it, too.  I don’t like that part, really, but it’s in His word all over the place.  It’s the reality of following Him.

I write to ask you to thank God for the work you have – even though it is so hard sometimes – because work is a gift that so many people (even in your zip code) cannot obtain.

I write because I cannot hold this sadness alone, and I selfishly ask you to hold a bit of it, too. I write because I ask you to pray for our friend, his wife, and his three children.  I write to ask whether you know of a job our friend could have…you just might.

A Banner Week

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“We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.” – Psalm 20:25

This has been a banner week in the lives of some of our refugee friends.  As I have mentioned, it’s been hard to know how to invest – where to invest – when to invest – here in Clarkston since we moved.  We have dipped our toes into relationships with new refugee friends, but we’ve certainly not hurled ourselves headlong into anything.

God isn’t bound by our mediocre efforts, though!  He is the Father to the fatherless, the defender of the orphan and the widow.  Sometimes, He lets us participate.  When we do, we are blown away by His goodness to those who live in a state of profound vulnerability.

Sunday, we visited three families here.  Anyone who has visited with friends from other nations knows that three families in one afternoon is a miracle in itself.  Most 10-minute conversations easily stretch to 2 hours of interaction and hospitality (on their part).  There’s no such thing as “quick.”  But God multiplied our meager time.

God provided for the first family we visited by opening up a space at an adult literacy program, Mommy & Me, after registration had already happened.  These African friends have been here only two months.  The dad is brilliantly pursuing growth and life for his family (wife and four small children) through his study of English and through his job on the night shift at the poultry processing plant.  His wife is working hard taking care of their children in this hot, humid, very confusing new place.  Her English is not strong, and we are thrilled that she will have the opportunity to experience 9 hours a week of instruction while her two preschoolers are enjoying a pre-school class of their own.  What a gift – language instruction by masters’ level teachers, community, childcare…all within walking distance of their apartment for only $10 per month.  God is so good!

He provided for another friend with a job!  Amazingly long story, but this gentleman was a “random” connection in a parking lot on a day in March.  He had just arrived in the U.S. at that point, and he was overflowing with enthusiasm to work, pride in the 6 languages he speaks, and tales of the life he left in Djibouti.  His wife and three of his children are still there, but he is here with his oldest son, blazing a trail.  We very randomly ran into him again a few weeks ago.  At that point, he was discouraged by his lack of employment and by the prospect of keeping his 13-year-old son safe in the harsh environment he’d encountered.  That night, some friends joined us in praying for a job for him.  Very miraculously, our kind Father provided him a job that pays more than minimum wage.  And, his work hours are during the day, which is so good for his son.  We met with this African friend Sunday, and yesterday God secured a job for him.  How sweet!

Finally, God has provided restoration and redemption for a widow and her two children who we’ve known for three years.  We met her the night she arrived here.  She was quickly overwhelmed to the point of illness and hospitalization.  When we visited over the weekend, she proudly, laughingly served us food and coffee in her clean apartment. She adeptly holds a job and provides for her two school-aged children in a way that showcases God’s ability to uphold the widow and care for the orphan. He has not let her falter. She is being redeemed.

I’m so humbled.  We are so inconsistent and poor in our efforts to love His wounded children.  This is because we are wounded ourselves.  He is so gracious to pursue all of us with His grace. He allows us to glimpse His tangible power when we fellowship with the apple of His eye – the vulnerable ones who quietly face giant obstacles with faith and resolute determination, even when all of life seems daunting and overwhelming.  What a gift to watch Him delight to do what He does best – to redeem.

Please join us in praying for these and other friends as they do the hard work of adjusting to life in the United States.

The Agonizing Promise of the Small

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This morning, I walked with a neighbor who has lived in Clarkston for many years.  For most of the years, her family lived among refugees in an apartment complex.  She is a teacher and became burdened by the lack of access to English classes for moms of preschool-aged children in the complex where she lived.  Out of that burden grew a program called “Mommy and Me” that is now a thriving adult literacy program currently held at the Clarkston International Bible Church.  Today on our walk, my friend shared details about the new burden God has put on her heart for economic development and its intersection with the adoption world in the Congo.  Wow.

(Sidebar: I’m so unfamiliar with this other-world that I am not sure whether the country is best referenced, “Congo” or “the Congo” as I type.  There ya go. Ignorance.)

She was clearly struggling to fit huge vision and burden into short bursts of available time to connect, fund, research, raise awareness, and birth this new ministry that God is crafting in her life. I, on the other hand, was feeling awed by the amazing power of God to take a human vessel and pour through it a tiny but profound piece of His redemptive work via a surrendered and willing heart.

Oh, and I was also feeling totally dwarfed by this friend who will have fostered two amazing ministries by the time I’ve figured out how to…fill out forms, master signupgenius.com, procure the longest-lasting manicure, fund camps for my kids, get the mildew out of my shower curtain, and generally avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. I realize this self-analysis is not very gracious, but – face it – shiny, white, magna cum laude suburb-lady with three kids can look herself in the mirror and think these things pretty honestly on a “lazy” summer morning, right?

This is the wrestling I have.  I think many of my friends have it, too.  We’re full-out family mamas in a world where that job description is known to eat those of us who hold the title and spit us out medication-dependent and hand sanitizer-obsessed.  It’s not for the faint of heart.

BUT, there’s that other world out there – the one that we know grips God’s heart profoundly.  The orphan crisis.  The homeless population. The millions of refugees.  The clean water initiatives.  The sex-trafficking industry.  These causes and needs LOOM (on facebook, no less!?!?). In response, I genuinely ache and then go try a new smoothie recipe since I don’t know what else to do. (This morning: cantaloupe, ice, and coconut milk.  Pretty tasty.)

So today, I am both discouraged and encouraged by my amazing friend.  Discouraged that I’m not her – that my pro-activity and my surrender have been so often stunted by my fear, selfishness, and the tyranny of the urgent.  Encouraged that she starts small, too.  She spent two hours yesterday procuring an email address with the right @ “whatever” at the end.

That’s small.  And frustrating.

Small is all we’ve got, ladies.

Today I’m thinking about small and how agonizingly profound it is.  Not one of us is exempt from embracing the small as we follow the God of huge redemptive grace.

I think our culture tells us that we must (and can) be “profound” (read in a booming, deep voice).  So, we buy that lie and look for opportunities to leap tall buildings in a single bound rather than fighting for grace by the inch.

Today, may we embrace the agonizing promise of the small.

Thank You and Shalom

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Tonight, I need to say thank you.

Our dear friends from across the world leave in the morning. They board a bus and head out for American dreams in Columbus, Ohio. They take bags that look and smell so much like the ones we helped them to pull off of the carousel at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport nearly three years ago. They will hold a coffee urn, several china espresso cups, spices, and a coffee serving set. They will hold children’s clothing and a few beautiful outfits that will be worn on special occasions – birthdays, Christmas celebrations, etc . They will hold some American mementos picked up along the way, hopefully, too…maybe a book, probably a DVD, and likely a few pictures that they’ve taken during their time in Clarkston. I imagine they will hold the plastic sheets with images of Mary and baby Jesus that were their main apartment décor over the time we’ve known them.

I need to tell them Thank You, but our communication is still not clear enough for them to read this note. I weep because I cannot tell them the whole Thank You. A hug had to do. The small words “Thank You” had to be enough when we left them last week.

I need to tell them Thank You for their hearts – for their bravery and their fortitude and most of all for their sense of humor. The smiles and laughter that always embraced any mishap. Those are true gifts…ones I possess scarcely, but hope to possess more strongly.

I need to tell them Thank You for their children – for each precious soul who eagerly opened up their hearts to our own kids and helped to teach us all that communication is 99% not dependent on the spoken word.

I need to tell them Thank You for inviting us – for inviting us into their vulnerable spaces of child bearing and job searching and driving tests and school problems and neighbor love and pest control issues and acclimation to cold weather and semi-urban life.

I need to tell them Thank You for loving us – in their way. For continuing to offer us the third cup of coffee, even when our American selves were too busy to drink it, time and again. We seemed to always have to go – two hours in – after only two cups of artistic love.

I need to tell them Thank You for being our friends – for looking past our foibles and our pride and for welcoming us into their hearts as much as we hoped to welcome them into ours.

I need to tell them how much we will miss them. Not the idea of a refugee friend, not the “chance to serve,” not the family opportunity. THEM. We will miss them. We love them so much. They are our friends. We will miss them.

I need to tell them goodbye.

But I don’t want to.

Shalom, dear friends. May His peace be upon you.

The first coffee ceremony we had in 2010.

The first coffee ceremony we had in 2010.

Until we meet again…

Emotional Motion Sickness

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I find myself emotionally car-sick these days.  When I was little, being motion sick in the car was a sure fire way to earn a seat in the middle of the back (on the “hump.”)  Not the most coveted seat in the car, but the one that allowed a steady view of the road in front of us as we drove.  The anti-venom for motion sickness is having something steady to focus on.  The problem was that my little brother got more car-sick than I did – like, he actually threw up, while I just turned green – so he was the one who scored middle seat status, while I craned my neck around my mom or dad’s head rest to see out the front of the car.  Families of seven require all sorts of compromise.

As a driver and mom, I’m the one at the wheel 85% of the time now.  When I’m not there, I’m riding shotgun next to my honey. (My favorite place, since that means we can visit, he’s got the responsibility, and I control the radio. J)  So, last weekend when we went to rural Florida for a family birthday and I rode in the back seat, I was surprised at the return of motion sickness.  The highway was fine, but as soon as we got off and started driving toward the country, I was having 9-year-old car trip flashbacks.  It’s embarrassing to have to ask your in-laws to stop the car, but wow did it feel good to walk around in the fresh air for a bit.

Life in our home has ramped up in the last month or so.  There is plenty to focus on and even more to FEEL:

The house is under contract. (Imagine sentimental impact and gratitude.)

The long awaited kitchen cabinets in the new house linger…and so does our move date, making it an ever-moving target and tough to plan for. (Imagine a control freak freaking out.)

There is a spring break Clarkston vision trip for some fun Wesleyan families in the works, mid March. (Imagine wanting it to go so well and planning for 17.)

Both teenagers have spring sports.  Did you know a Lacrosse team can cram 22 games into two months? Thank the Lord for only four track meets! (Imagine the food, calendar, laundry, and trips to school – your own life, probably.)

Our house has to be packed, sold, donated, stored, moved, and disposed of.  At least 4,000 extra square feet of stuff has to go somewhere. (Imagine the decisions.) (By the way, do you want some?)

Oh, and we both have jobs. (No imagination here…jobs are way too normal and necessary.)

That Gospel Prayer is continuing to roll over and over in my head.  I keep coming back to trust as so basic.  Do I trust Him?  Do I believe Him?  Do I believe HIM and not the system, my works, the earning, the effort, or the image?  Romans 1:17 says, “He who through faith is righteous shall LIVE.” Life.  Through faith.  That’s all. One steady gaze.

This month (well, most months) make me think that I can get said LIFE through a to do list, or a well planned series of meals, or a perfectly orchestrated day of events with a little Jesus thrown in.  Often this philosophy leaves me emotionally motion sick as my gaze shifts all over the place and my emotions sluggishly pull behind my gaze in a disorienting, stomach-rumbling sort of a way.

Life through faith.  Because His righteousness is accomplished and certain and mine is filthy and disorienting.  I’ve got to fix my eyes on Him, because He is enough, especially in the chaos.

Hebrews 12:2 says that we fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

He walked in faith.  He pioneered fixing His gaze.  He perfected faith because I cannot.

So, my prayer this month is that the distractions of this move would not cause me to be emotionally motion sick.  I pray that I would fix my gaze on Jesus and LIVE because of His pioneering faith.  Experience rest in the hard work rather than distraction in the chaos.  Through faith.

Sort of like riding shotgun with my honey.

Human Static

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Recently, Doug and I volunteered to take a refugee woman from Burma to an eye doctor appointment.  We were grateful to have the chance to do it, since the business of our lives over the last several months has really hindered our time connecting in Clarkston.  Our new friend was in her late 50’s and spoke very little English.  She had had cataract surgery and was going for a follow up appointment.

Anytime you’re in a car with a person who does not speak your language, there’s the definite possibility that things will be awkward.  They were (a little).  When things get awkward, I start to do mental gymnastics, which I commenced that morning in the car.  Where had she come from?  What was her story?  What did she think of I-285 on a Saturday morning?  How often had she been away from the confines of Clarkston?  Did she have a husband?  What did she think of me?  Was she amused by my banter with Doug, or did she think it was rude that we were talking and wonder if we were talking about her?  Human mental static, on steroids.

The doctor’s office was quiet – it was a Saturday morning – so we got right in to see him.  He asked me several questions about her health history, and I had to uncomfortably explain that I did not know a thing about this dear woman.  I was just here as the transmission, wheels, and steering column.  (That’s because Doug always gets the job of being the brakes at our house…HA!)  So, I tried in vain to act like I knew more than I did…to be an expert on someone I was totally unfamiliar with.  He asked, “Can she read the letters on the wall if I put them up?”  I confidently replied, “I doubt it!  Most likely not. I don’t think so.”

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Dummy.

Yes she can.

She read all of them.  Down to the little ones on the line that read “20/15” and indicated that my new friend not only knew her letters, but she also had excellent post-cataract-surgery vision.

Really.

Really?

I was arrogant enough to assume that she was illiterate?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Humblingly.  Prideful.

All of my assumptions and mind-static on the way to the office had led me to paint a very certain picture of this “poor” woman who knew no English and probably very few other things.

It’s quite possible she is a Burmese rocket scientist…or PhD…or chef…or teacher.

Why on earth would I make assumptions like that?  Why would I let the static in my head paint pictures of things that were so far from true with so little evidence?

Because I’m normal, I think.

Here’s what I’ve been mulling over all week, though:  Jesus came.  This is the season of Advent.  He entered our world and became human.  Tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  In addition to our temptation, what must it have been like for a Holy God of clarity and creation and peace to take on a human mind full of so much static?  Did it sound so harsh to His holy internal ears when he became a man and suddenly heard the internal cacophony of questions and answers and assumptions and ideas and feelings and confusions and judgments and ponderings?

I don’t pretend to know how much He endured of this type of human challenge, but I keep thinking of how raw and painful and jarring it must have been to Him who offers the peace that passes understanding.  He bore our sin.  He bore our judgment.  He bore our death.  And, He lived inside of our static.  How grateful I am that the Prince of Peace chose to enter our human cacophony and offer us His gracious silence, even in our least holy nights.

 

 

A Five Year Walk

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She walked for five years.

A few weeks ago, we attended a meeting for volunteers of World Relief at church.  Our trainer was excellent, and had much wisdom to share about interacting with newly arrived refugee families.  She told many stories to illustrate her points, one of which yielded a refrain that has been rolling around in my head for days and days.

She walked for five years.

This refugee woman, of whom my new friend spoke, walked for five years before she reached a camp.

Can you imagine running from danger, leaving everything, fleeing pain, and then walking FOR FIVE YEARS?

I am an arriver.  This week is packed with necessary arrivals.  I need to arrive at the school (about 15 times, to be exact), at work (at least five times this week), at the bank, at the dry cleaners, at the dog groomers, at the grocery store, etc.  And, each time, I will arrive back at home, open the garage door, step in the kitchen, throw my things down on the desk, and take up the task of all of the mini arrivals within my home.  Arriving at the washer/dryer, arriving at the computer to catch up on emails, arriving at the sink, stove, and refrigerator to make a meal, arriving at the mailbox, arriving at the recycle bin, arriving (thank God!) in my bed, etc.

Really, I’m addicted to loops that close, I think.  To going and to coming.  To leaving and to arriving.  To asking and to answering.  To wondering and to knowing.  To seeing and to understanding.  To planning and to executing.  To wanting and to having.

The last month has felt a lot more like a dusty walk than a neat arrival.  My dad had unexpected quadruple bypass surgery.  I got an out of the blue job offer that was a gift and a crisis, all in one.  Our Clarkston building process has been all question and no answer.  We have an official driver in our home (if that doesn’t create open-ended fear, I don’t know what does!)

I keep thinking…

She walked for five years.

If four weeks of lack of closure has torn me down and eaten me up, what would five years do to a soul?

This morning, I read a sort of caustic assessment of American Christians, but it hit home.  “The problem with Christians is that they have the answer…but haven’t lived the question.” (Ron Austin, quoted by Winn Collier in Holy Curiosity)

Jesus made a habit of asking questions.  When he answered others’ questions, He often did so with confusing parables.  I’m not thinking He was sold on the incessant departure / arrival feedback loop to which I am apparently addicted.  I think He was probably more into the value of a five year walk.

Scripture, especially the Old Testament, is replete with beautiful promises of God planting His people in cities where they will flourish.  He says things like, “He turns a wilderness into pools of water, and dry land into water springs.  There He makes the hungry dwell, that they may establish a city for a dwelling place.” (Psalm 107:35-36)

I ache for those who walk and walk and never find a settled place.  I also ache for those of us who drive and park and pull in and out and never get much from the journey because we’re too focused on the next arrival.

Somehow, the grace of Christ is that He causes us all to dwell, to be established, to be planted, to come home

Thy Kingdom come.

 

Another Update

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The past few weeks have been so full with Clarkston happenings. So, before we head out for a long-weekend-vacation, I wanted to send an update.

We closed on the third house in the subdivision last week.  It’s amazing that we are finally there…being would-be builders has been an education.

Our own timing for moving has been changed.  It’s been hard to find facts about what it will take (time and money) to renovate the bungalow basement in order to feasibly live there as a family as our house in Clarkston is being built.  So…until we can get some clarity there, our house is off the market.  It makes me somewhat sad, but I do know that God’s timing is being worked out so clearly.

One of the ways we’ve seen His timing has been in the way that our dance with the city has gone.  At every turn, we’ve been grateful for the integrity and responsiveness of city officials.  But, we’ve also had roadblocks along the way that have taken time to hurdle.  As of last week, it seems apparent that we will be able to apply for a building permit for our house without encountering the red tape that we’ve been anticipating (due to codes, zoning, etc.).  That is huge, and we’re grateful that God slowed us down in the spring.  We see now that, had we pressed ahead with our dealings then, we would have been very frustrated and tied up in red tape right about now.  Instead, it looks like it could be clear sailing toward starting our house. He does know and He does see!

The remainder of the undeveloped subdivision…

The sweetest thing this week, though, was our first neighborhood gathering.  We had a pot-luck dinner together and had the chance to sit around the dinner table and do the fun and awkward dance of learning about each other.  A meal shared is an amazing platform for relationships to be born.  It was special, and it was hopeful for all, I think.  Each family has come to their place in the subdivision with much  surrender, grace, prayer, and challenge.  It was sweet to celebrate some tangible victory as we sat in the kitchen of one of the homes.

Thank you for journeying with us!