Small Bodies

A few weeks ago, I prayed with vivid feelings and memories fresh on my heart. It was a couple days after two loving parents had disagreed with weary bones and Spanish-filled minds over what needed to be done if Asher became worse. After weeks of diarrhea and antibiotics. After a night’s rest beside my youngest that began with tears. With Guatemalan daylight easing the upset of our disagreement and offering a new day with hope of better health for my son, I thought back to a hot afternoon of carrying children, walking a long way, through a foreign city. We had not known how to get home from church using the microbuses. I thought that by walking in the right direction we would be able to ask a bus and catch a ride eventually. Eventually never came and we just kept walking. Backs sore, arms wrinkled from the weight of our children, we arrived back home a long time later. Dusted with fumes, rosy with sun, disgruntled with the situation. The kids just had to hold on though and they were fine. When we finally arrived back, they were happy to be back “home,” and soon took peaceful naps. The walk had not been very impressive to them.

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I remembered that walk, and others similar to it when small bodies relied on big, as I tried to express our needs to our Father after acute points of concern for Asher. I found  us, the feeble caretakers, in the arms of the Caretaker, and was comforted by the image. Step by step, would you somehow carry us both and lead us in a good way…again? Like we do here with two, strapping helpless kids on narrow sidewalks. Coated with dust, inhaling fumes, maneuvering through crap and uneven steps and drunks and dogs. Our arms tired but we keep our voices upbeat — for them. We carry, we lead, we get home somehow. We are those heavy children, Father. Doing what we know, the good and the bad. Please–speak to us in the voice of “we are going to get there.” In your heart of lifting and love. Move us in the right direction with Your cadence of protection and perspective; of ‘look at those pretty mountains’ and ‘we are closer than before.’ We do not know the way. Would you fill us with your tone and tenor of tenderness and struggle-less? 

Now, back on home soil, I thank God for the distance from those difficult nights of uncertainty about Asher. He is getting better. I also pray the same prayer for Now. Now we are here with there still on our skin and I still know that all I can do is ride, is hold on to the Caretaker. The daily is not so strenuous here but there are wider things to look at now, like ministry, our team, our future. We are here with dmv reminders and warehouse membership and hot running water and sofas. Oh how we missed having a sofa to sit upon. We are here with plans to make and news to catch up on and old roles in need of new adjustments. We are here with preschool plans and adoption applications and cell phones and creamer.

This morning, I wonder-prayed, to say nothing about the crying. I wondered to God what He thinks of this time, and what is sustainable self-care for moms and what can we do now that we can’t other times and what do we do other times that we cannot do now. I felt the disorientation of this time. I thanked Him for the journey so far, for His strong arms that carried us through dark nights and some long days. I thank Him that only day by day can we make progress and process. I thank Him for those who help me remember that by modeling patience and grace.

While I want knowledge to gain confidence, He offers love. The mystery of the Gospel is a fear-ridding, grace-producing love that precedes knowledge, that precedes all the orientation and answers in the world. He asks that that be enough many times. That those arms of love and grace be confidence enough until it is safe to walk, until we have another brief period of sure footing. May we each enjoy the Caring One, who carries each one, as we have been and are now being.

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For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deepis the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   – Eph. 3:14-19

Mind the Gap

“Grandmothers and grandfathers dragged themselves to him with their toothless mouths, with their eyes that seemed not to see but saw all that is deep in our hearts. They had been walking the four paths of the earth for a long time–the red path, the white path, the yellow path, and the black path–the four magical paths of wisdom. That’s why they couldn’t see things far off, but only those close up, with great depth.” – – from Rigoberta Menchú’s account of a Maya myth about elders.

These days I find myself craving age.  Age without pretense or disguise–just crusty, dragging, aged people who see more deeply than anyone with a microphone or a corner office or a blog. I crave elders who may not be strong enough for a flight of stairs but can support an entire community with their backbone of experience. People who have long grown away from worldly titles or degrees or fashion but who have been acquainted with hearts and souls long enough to speak plainly to both. Whose health is unattached to a trend, whose beauty surpasses the new formula. I crave their anchoring, example, and calm. I am noticing their absence.

One of the great disservices of our internet and technology-dependent society is that it has become even easier to live without contact with the Deep-seers. We’ve poured everything in a development race that generally excludes certain populations, our grandparents being one. Facebook seems real but is only a keyhole view. In the plugged-in world, we rarely interact or have to make room for someone who has seen their name pass down two, three, or four generations. That is really strange. Millions of threads and forums feed our interests and concerns online, most responders probably being people in our same peer group, and we don’t have to ask our mothers, our grandmothers, and we have an answer but something is lost.  I am missing that something; I am feeling the gap. I am missing the company of the people who have walked those paths because seeing things far off gets exhausting and it is tiring to always study the horizon.

One of the people I have had the privilege of watching age was my Grandma Jean.  She did not fight time. I was fortunate to be around in her last days on earth and introduce my firstborn to her the Christmas before.  Growing up, I didn’t live next door to her but many holidays and camping trips were spent in her company. High school overseas and college a thousand miles away meant less contact with her and Grandpa in my adolescent/pretend-adult years. But they were there. In the same house, with the same traditions, same stories, relics, marriage, jam, smell, and love as the day I joined the family.  She knew she was facing death when she received her final diagnosis and handled the process with grace and care for others, just as she handled life.  She left us with so much though I did not stay in touch with her over the miles well. I did not ask to look through her eyes enough while I could.

Youthfulness is idolized and fast-paced, mobile, unsettled lifestyles are envied. But quietly, knowingly, some bow out of the frenzy, or the frenzy whizzes past them, and it is they, people like my grandparents, who help ground us and who we would go–should go– running to for balance, safety and some sort of orientation in time.  They are a control, a fixed point, a key to tune to. My generation and younger have had very little sameness. Along with a $5 check on my birthday each year, Grandma gave me that.  Without me realizing it, she, and other elders in my tribe so to speak, gave me footing. After she died, though my daily life was no different, it felt a little like trying to settle into a wobbly chair. You’re not falling, but it just isn’t level.

I am better at listening to old stories than I used to be, which is to say I am not very good but I know it now. I am working on slowing down my pace so I can notice if the abuela next door is sitting on the porch. I am trying to care for people nearest me so that they can grow old without burning out and feeling like they must escape here to retire–so that the average age of my coworkers actually grows with time. I am wondering what it would take for us to last a long, long time in ministry. I am hoping that I will learn to be a deep-seer from Deep-seers. I am writing Grandpa letters. I really want to hear from the oldest people in our church. These are the only things I know to do in this vacuum of age. Tiny invitations. Baby ideas. Because that is what I am.