Saturday, December 31, 2022

Wrapping

Olivia reveling in snow!

 

We had our annual Christmas caroling event for our family, a 20-year-old tradition that started with my nephew. This year we added Karaoke at the end of it...inspired by a different nephew and a niece revealing their mad vocal skills!  They were discovered, and the karaokeing began! I sang At this Table by Indina Menzel- sung here by Selah.  Better to hear them sing it than me, let me tell you! The first verse reflects my childhood family culture as I remember it, and how they shaped my love for God and for people...how they have wrapped me up and spoken affirmation over my life and those who came into our home throughout the years. 

 It says:

At this table, everyone is welcomeAt this table, everyone is seenAt this table, everybody mattersNo one falls betweenAt this table, you can say whateverAt this table, you can speak your mindAt this table, everything's forgivenThere's enough for everyone
 
One young person in my family commented later, "it's not possible..." and a wise adult in her life (not me) said, "but it's the ideal." 
 
 
 
***
 
I was in a most delightful place (a thrift store) where bits of friendly conversations floated across isles of discarded treasures. One person, who happened to be in every isle I wanted to go down, made several remarks to other miners like myself that struck me as exceptionally insightful and caring. I smiled listening to her and thought , "I want to speak meaningfully in passing like that."  The moment came where we were cart to cart, rack to rack, and I made an offhand comment about Nigeria.

She stopped, looked at me, and started a different kind of rummaging, through the things of my heart.  I very soon found out that this lovely person, Maria, was not focused on wrapping Christmas gifts, but on wrapping...me!  And she bound me in layers and layers. She taped them with hugs, tears, and prayer.  I felt wholeness, and the warmth that heals a brokenness that I didn't even know was there.  God surprised me with his lavish, tender care through this sister.  She changed my life in those 10 minutes we spent together. I know it cost her something, her time and energy, emotion that could have been used on strengthening other areas or building closer to home...but she chose me...and in doing so, reminded me that God does too.  It's like she was singing the chorus of the song "At This Table."  It says:

So come as you areRemember that the door is always openYes, come as you areThe perfect gift that you could bring is your heartSo come, come as you are...
 
Pull up a chair. 
 
I love these words, they ARE my ideal, and when I think about Jesus, his ragamuffin lot that were thickheaded, with different political views, social standing, and professions, I think it's his too! He says "pull up a chair" to his people from Thailand to Morocco to Chile to Nigeria every single morning, and he says it because he wants to wrap them in his love.  I want to be like that too.  I want to do the hard thing, like Maria did, like Jesus did, to see, really see, and wrap, joyfully wrap others in this beautiful season  where we celebrate the one who came wrapped in clothes to a world wrapped in darkness so he could wrap them with love and light. 

Maybe I'll form a habit, and it will flow into the New Year!  Bob Goff says in his book Everybody Always, "Love isn't something we fall into; love is someone we become." 
 
Yes, Lord, do it in me! 
 

My little sister, Leah, is a wrapper extraordinaire. I've learned a lot from her.


 
 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Sea Monsters and Missionaries

 "Some people, they'll never accept him, but some will, and he seems to know how to pick the good ones." -Luca's grandmum encouraging his mother in Pixar's "Luca"

We have been in the United States for almost two weeks.  As Daso and I rode out of our compound gate for one of our last outings before we said goodbye for a few months, she asked, eyes shining "What are you excited about the most?"  Tears came to my eyes, because what I was excited about was introducing her to my world.  The child who has called me "mommy" for the last 8 years, finally seeing part of what made me the mommy that I am. I couldn't think of anything at the time. 

I could answer her question much better now: Family gatherings, playgrounds, libraries, Christmas lights, pizza, cheese, butter, chocolate hidden in my dad's cupboard, children's church, worshiping in my heart language, walking in a crowd and looking like everyone else, anonymity, sleeping in, bagels, pretty houses without walls around them, driving at night, firesides, remembering Josh, basketball games, a TV to watch the World Cup on, sledding, wearing a snowsuit, hugging my mom, listening to her and my dad harmonize in church on either side of me, friends who have known me before I was me, warm embraces from church family...and the list could go on and on.  


Today I went to a playground with my children, an indoor playground intentionally designed with the development and hearts of children in mind. 

 I watched my children pretending, exploring, exclaiming in two languages and I both rejoiced and ached. I rejoice in their delight and the opportunities these trips here afford them.  I ache for my other "children" who sit on plastic mats on an unfinished cement floor to hear the stories (the only stories) read to them at our library who's laughter rings in my heart even now because they are so full, so thankful and open and eager. I rejoice at the multi-lingual and multi-cultural children I get to walk hand in hand with every day, and I ache that some will never accept them, but pray they will know how to pick the good ones. I rejoice that the children of Holland, MI have so much abundance and for those that don't, they have Christmas boxes lining church corridors awaiting them because of the generous hearts of our Father's loving family. I ache that I have two dear, dear friends in Nigeria who need emergency surgeries and I feel stuck thinking of how to help them get the resources they need.  How can I be in awe of the beautiful things of this country EVERY SINGLE TIME I RETURN! How can I long for the simple yet profound beauty of my Nigerian home when so much good, so many wonderful people, surround me here? 


Tonight we watched Luca, a Pixar film about a sea monster who transforms into a human when on land, as long as he stays dry.  He changes into the form of a human, shaking off his beautiful blue scales, but he doesn't know how to walk properly, what to talk about (unknowingly insulting people he passes), or what those little lights poking holes in the dark sky are. His clothes don't quite fit right, and he feels more awkward than he looks. Once when his enthusiasm bubbles up at learning about the galaxies,  he says to his new friend, "Too much?"  She giggles and says what he said to her when she asked the same question, "Never."  I'm thankful I have those friends here in Holland that remind me that I'm never "too much" because when I come here from Nigeria, I feel all the things I fight for daily, the passions that want to overflow must have a weighted blanket thrown over them before I too readily spew the life-altering causes, stories of resilient transformative people, the desperate hopes, the beckoning needs.  I don't make small talk very well, my clothes never fit right, and I'm ignorant of how a Christ follower acts in "normal" society.  

I am that sea monster, not talking about my other world because I'm...just not sure of what it means to love being here but not belong here.  I don't know how the blueness of my scales and the life experiences that make me who I am will shock others or make them feel uncomfortable. Those who talk with me may not realize the calm nature of the hues that are filtered by this uncertainty, and may find what I do share quite "other" enough. By the end of the movie, Luca and his other sea monster friend, have become comfortable in their two skins. They have proven that they can be both sea monster and human. 

I do hope that my children, as they grow, can muster their courage to be scaly blue or blandly pink, fully third-culture-kid, American, or Nigerian or their own unique combination. That they will know how to pick the people who will accept their "otherness" joyfully. I hope I can lead them in that, too!  It surprises me that after 15 years in Africa, this phenomenon of  changing skins is still a conscious effort. Call it "phantom tail" or call it "Bruno" (you'll have to watch the movie) but what I do know is that while I'm figuring this stuff out, God places each of us right where we will be blessed and be a blessing using our experiences and gifts, being exactly who he made us to be for this time and place we find ourselves in. 



Missed the Train!

I hate missing the train!  Today I missed the train. I had planned a day in Chicago with a dear friend I met 10 years ago, also a new bride ...