Summer Lessons

PHOTO CREDIT: Tina Francis

PHOTO CREDIT: Tina Francis

My summer is nearly done. In a matter of days I’ll pack suitcases, gather passports and make my way home in time for the first day of school. Glancing through the photo album of summer days, trying to discern if he hit a growth spurt between my arrival and departure, I realized another kind of growth.

These are some of the things my son learned this summer…

1. You can talk to Papa about anything new or curious happening to your body. Without going into unnecessary detail, my son is heading into those pre-teen years when bodies change. New sensations and new questions arise. What he now knows, after a candid conversation one night with both his father and I, is that he doesn’t need to be scared or embarrassed to talk to Papa about his body and its growth. Our impromptu conversation broke the ice, making future discussions more likely to happen as he reaches new heights, his voice reaches new depths. He knows Papa understands, has been through it, and will listen to him anytime.

2. God stands alongside the oppressed, ever close to the broken-hearted of the world. Multiple times this summer we landed on this truth amid our conversations. The first time, early in the season, we talked about the story of the Exodus. I told him how God heard the cry of the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt – then God acted, God delivered. Whenever and wherever people are oppressed, on the underside of justice, God stands alongside them. This came up again in the many talks we had about the conflict between Israel and Gaza – who is oppressed, and where do we find God?

3. God loves our enemies as much as He loves us. As often as we talked about Israel and Gaza, which was plenty during our final weeks, we talked about God’s sweeping call to love everyone involved in the conflict. “Why do we love every person in Gaza and Israel?” I asked. “Because God’s image is in each one of them,” he responded. Indeed, in the words of Desmond Tutu, God loves those we call enemies as much as he loves us! God doesn’t give us permission to hate, but to always work toward love of the oppressed, the neighbor and even (maybe especially) our enemy. “Jesus asks a very hard thing, mom.” “Yes, but did you think transforming the world would be easy?” I asked.

4. You get to have both your mothers; you don’t have to choose between us. This year we celebrated our 9th Adoption Day, saw the neighborhood where he was found by a farmer on the way to market and talked a bit more about our birth moms. At one point, over pane chocolate and mango smoothies, I told him he gets to have both his mothers. He doesn’t have to choose between his dreams, thoughts and feelings for his birth mom and his love for me – he can have both. “Thank you, mom,” he said, wiping away a tear or two.

5. Be like Messi, not Renaldo. For my son, everything comes back to soccer. His favorite player is Messi, and he regaled me at length with his virtues as a player and a person. One of the sterling qualities – he does not let insults provoke him to unsportsmanlike behavior. This in contrast to his rival, Renaldo, known for arrogance and aggression. So when he’s insulted on the field or at school, the new rule? Be like Messi, not Renaldo!

PHOTO CREDIT: Tina Francis

PHOTO CREDIT: Tina Francis

I think our summer lessons will serve both of us well in the season ahead. And as he grows out of his shoes and shirts, I pray he will grow into a young man capable of deep compassion and complex conversations. I hope he will, with each day and each choice, become a peacemaker that will make big (and small) contributions to the world God so loves.

Finding Sabbath (a poem)

week51 pineapple

I Sabbath in quiet,

in the late, dark night

on the edges of Sunday

buried in the pages of a book

maybe savoring the sun-sweet bowl of pineapple in the late afternoon

I feel Sabbath good

in a momentary sigh

a slow inhale and a slower exhale

my body draped across a couch

conscious of my toes wiggling

I feel it’s holiness

in unhurried conversations

in decisions to not do,

to not clutter,

to not add one more thing

in unapologetic stillness and guilt-free day-dreams

in space to imagine other possibilities beyond our binaries, our violence, our walls

When rest re-calibrates me I’ve submitted to Sabbath well.

 

 

{ A Life Overseas: The Sign That Matters }

signMatara

Five years ago we landed in Burundi. Around the small capital I noticed signs everywhere – signs of other NGOs present in the city with logos plastered on their large Land Cruisers, big placards at their local offices and signs out in the countryside wherever they had a project. The rampant self-promotion turned my stomach sour. No one could do any good thing without erecting a sign to mark it, to prove their worth and claim their territory.

For the first season I nursed a secret sense of pride over our unmarked cars that criss-crossed the city, often full of Burundian friends who shared in this development adventure. We didn’t need signs to validate our partnership or announce our project; we just did the work that needed to be done with our friends.

We managed to work in one community for three years without a single sign, but watched thirty families move steadily toward a viable and vibrant community.

Right about that time we began work with another community of 660 families in a different province. We started planting hundreds of trees together, advocated for identity cards for all the adults and birth certificates for the children. Soon we began constructing an elementary school. And somewhere amid all this activity the local officials made a strong recommendation – that we put up a sign.

Read the rest over at A Life Overseas…

My son’s birthright

driving

This past Friday our small family piled into our car and drove to Bubanza. We celebrated the completion of the first academic year of Kwizera Academy, a school we founded just last year. On the drive home, slicing through the Burundian countryside, I thought about what this landscape has come to mean to me. I felt more deeply what I hope it means to my son who is native to this place. I’m not a poet, but these are the strands of words I captured as we traveled home in the bright noonday sun…

Friday Drive

We watch the passing landscape as we cut across the Burundian plain.

I keep your iPod tucked away on purpose.

This is your landscape, son.

Be bored by it, absorbed by it,

notice something new,

recognize what’s universal.

 

Steep in the hot colors; let them stain you.

Reds, greens, yellows awash with sun,

bulging bunches of bananas (still chartreuse) balanced on bikes,

rice spread on the roadside, resting in their golden husks,

pyramids of orange mandarins stacked on rickety tables.

This is your palette.

 

Born to this soil – it’s yours

and it matters.

The mingling of soil and soul always does.

You belong to this land irrevocably -

beyond passports, birth certificates, even adoption decrees.

 

Your connection is like Adam’s,

a shared substance with red dirt,

variations of green vegetation,

ombre-shaded elevation from deep silver-tipped waters of Tanganyika

to greyed hues of distant (and many) rolling hills

touching the brilliant sky blue.

 

This place is your birthright.

This Writers Life

Photo credit: Sarah Joslyn of SarsCreative,  originally created for SheLoves Magazine.

Photo credit: Sarah Joslyn of SarsCreative, originally created for SheLoves Magazine.

My friend and fellow writing group partner, Christiana Peterson, invited me to share some thoughts on my current writing projects and writing process. How could I not play? First, take a moment to visit Christiana’s place and read about her process (she’s currently working with words around themes of farming, intentional community living and death – so you don’t want to miss out on any of those ideas!)

*****

1. What are you working on?

I am currently writing a practical theology of adoption. This project weaves together my own stories of adoption, a theological framework for adoption, discussion of the formative aspects of adopted living and ends with a personal declaration of where adoption fits within salvation history. In many ways this is my story and also how I’ve come to articulate it – which is through the biblical text and the ever-present Spirit.

But I do believe this work serves as more than just my personal memoir. I hope this will be an offering to all those touched by the goodness of adoption – with fresh language for what to us is a sacrament and spiritual formation, with a more comprehensive conversation about where our adoptive story fits within the stories of Scripture and encouragement to embrace the full range of adoptive gestures and those included in our tribe. I also hope the community at large will see how adopted ones contribute unique gifts to families, churches and communities. It’s no small task…

Right now I am at the halfway mark – I think!

2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Where to begin? The current crop of books that tackle adoption from a Biblical perspective offer a very different description of both adoption and Scriptures related to it. The leading books are written by men, some adoptive fathers, most with conservative theological commitments. I imagine you already see some of my distinctive features!

I write as a woman, as an adoptive mother, as a person who lives between mainline and progressive communities (and comes from a conservative family). I write as bi-cultural parent. I write as one experienced in both domestic and international adoption.

But most distinctive might be the fact that I write as an adopted person with 40+ years of tenure in the company of the adopted. I write from inside adoption as one shaped by it and conversant in its nuances and complexities and stunning goodness.

But I do also write with a different sense of where adoption is connected to the Biblical narrative. I do not see it as connected to evangelism, mission or primarily as an antidote to abortion in a political climate. I see it within the bigger story – where adoption finds true congruence in both Old Testament and New Testament alike. I’m tempted to share more… but you’ll just have to wait for the book!

3. Why do you write what you do?

I write about more than adoption. I love to write about jubilee, justice, hope and the prophetic goodness and challenges I see in Isaiah, Micah and Jesus. I write about community development, stories of hope I uncover in my bi-continental life, the ordinary things and favorite Biblical texts along the way.

I write to discover truths more deeply. I do it to witness to my own development or call out my own blind spots. I do it to cultivate authentic community with others wrestling with similar ideas, stories and questions. I write to encourage deeper transformation within myself and (if God allows) within others.

 4. How does your writing process work?

I write in a journal daily – or nearly so. This is a spiritual practice for me and has been formative for, dare I say, decades. So many seeds are deposited in the soil of these blue-lines pages.

I am a firm believer in free-writes as a vital part of the creative process. I do multiple free-writes each week, always on Friday mornings, and turn to this mode of writing when I’m at an impasse. The best advice to those uninitiated in the mechanisms of the free-write – go get Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones at once! (True story: I started writing the adoption project in the margins of this book.)

When I sit to write, I begin by lighting candles to hallow the space and create a hedge of sorts. The candles are lit with a prayer, inviting God to be present in the work I’m about to begin. The flickering candles remind me to stay attentive to the work – aware God answers and is near to me as I write. The sight of the orange flames out of the corner of my wandering eye corral my thoughts, bring me back to the holy task at hand. I also am less likely to roam about the house with candles burning in my writing space!

I use lots of paper and spill copious amounts of ink when I’m working. I have huge sheets of paper when sketching ideas and connections or outlining sections of chapters. Actually, I use as a tablet paper intended to be desk pads. I have two side by side to give me about 60 inches of writing space. I also have a basket of various colors and sizes of post-it notes to annotate and color code along the way. Writing for me is a very concrete practice – I need to feel the pen in my hand and the surge of words skipping across the page like a rock across the surface of a lake. I need to shape the letters, write word clusters, see the written words and allow connections to rise to the surface on the paper. I’m very tactile when it comes to my writing… (This is the reason I’m committed to making my kids practice their penmanship all summer long, every summer. If they become writers, I want them to have the ability to write fast across the page and feel the creativity at work in their very body.)

When I do get stymied, there are a few things I do.

  • Always free-write.
  • Stand in my living room and begin preaching. Standing as if before an audience and speaking extemporaneously often dislodges whatever was stuck. The words I hunted around for on the paper seem to come out of my mouth when I imagine myself preaching.
  • And sometimes I need music to help. I always start in quiet, but if that isn’t working I find music to set a different mood. I love Strauss waltzes to pick up the pace, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to mimic my inner intensity or Ottmar Leibert’s flamenco guitar to offer a subtle melody to encourage a more gentle flow. There have been times I’ve need a song by Sting to help me get into the scene, Under the Desert Moon helping me feel the movement of the Nile River as I write about Moses, Desert Rose with its riffs in Arabic to pull me closer to the tenor of the Middle East as I try to describe the region – you get the picture. U2 and John Lennon have also come to my aid in recent months!

I do move from journal to free-write to outlines and then on to typing the words into the actual document. As I tell my husband, what I really need to write is space and snacks. (They have to be snacks that don’t leave any residue on your fingers, though, because no one wants sticky fingers on the keyboard or slippery ones trying to grasp a pen!)

 *****

Now it is my turn to tag a couple of friends to share their writing process, and I turn to an actual couple that I met through Deeper Story. I invite Seth and Amber Haines. Both are talented southern writers given to poetry and lyrical prose, words written with tenderness and acute accuracy, metaphors that penetrate and thoughts that plunge deep. How do they do that? What funds their imagination and draws out their poetic voice? I want to know more…

 

How to Host a Short Term Mission Trip (part three)

5 years!

This is the third and final installment (for now) on how we host short-term mission trips, based on ten years of experience! We just took our summer team to the airport last night, so I’m pretty tired. Hope there aren’t too many typos in this post – but if there is – please forgive me! 

*****

We just said good bye to a team of friends who left Burundi last night. Their send off included one last party with friends, good food and the experience of the Burundian drum corp. As they loaded their luggage into the cars and headed to the airport, I thought back over the week.

I remember, in a word, the vibrancy of the first few days up-country as our guests mingled with our Batwa communities. I remembered the moment Godece washed my muddy feet after I fell down the rain-soaked hill of Matara. I’ll never forget the leaders of Matara parading toward us with gifts – a chicken, a branch of green bananas, beans and fruits – all from their abundance. Now they bless us with their first-fruits, after 5 years they have more than enough to share. These are the snapshots from a full week – and if there were time I’d tell you so many more things that took my breath away during this week of visitation and celebration.

Even this morning, as I’m hung over with exhaustion (and an eye red and watery from some kind of scratch or infection) I can remember these few things clearly. I can articulate them even through the fog of my aching bones and coffee-craving. Because we prepared for this all along.

Let me share quickly (because I am really tired) how we practice story-telling and prepare our teams for their return home after their short term mission trip…

Read the rest over at A Life Overseas…

Hosting Short-Term Mission Trips (part 2)

photo credit: Tina Francis

photo credit: Tina Francis

When I was young I remember embarking on my first short-term mission trip – to Hawaii. I don’t recall much of what we did while on the island, but I remember when we clustered under the buckling metal patio cover for morning devotions. The team leader opened up his Bible and taught us about the seeds of the gospel we were meant to cast with generosity across the globe; a kind and gentle sort of evangelism.

Years later, while in college, I participated in a Spring Break mission to Ensenada. Did I help build something or feed someone – I can’t remember. The tents caked with dust, the days of discomfort, the paltry meals stick in my memory. The other impression time hasn’t eroded were the twilight gatherings round the fire pit, when we heard sermons on the virtues of mercy and evangelism working hand in hand for the advancing of the Kingdom.

My own experience of short-term mission trips convinced me that people needed me to come and help them fix their broken world. The times of devotion reinforced the message, telling me that Jesus expected me to do my part in saving people. I often walked away from mission trips feeling sorry for the poor, sensing the imperative to evangelize but heavy with guilt because I didn’t do enough of it. My ways of thinking about poverty, mission, and evangelism were never challenged, only confirmed.

But when people come to Burundi I want them to see Scripture afresh. I want team members to witness the words and works of God already afoot in Bubanza, Matara and Bujumbura. I want the stories of Scripture and the red soil to mingle – stretching and challenging us, over-turning our assumptions, offering fresh vision. I want my team to feel God’s active and subversive words as work among us.

Here are some things I consider when it comes to crafting devotions for short-term mission teams… You’ll need to click over to A Life Overseas to read the rest!

 

Hosting Short-Term Mission Trips (part 1)

day 4 blog-8279

I spend my summers in Burundi. I am married to a Burundian social entrepreneur and in me he’s found his chief storyteller. Together we are community development practitioners in multiple communities as well as parents to our two children. Our lives stretch between Burundi and America; our conversations wide with words about agriculture, education, banking and health. It’s a rich life woven with many textured threads.

Part of our annual rhythm includes the high season, that time when visitors come from the west to witness the work on the ground. Our home fills up with a wide array of friends, we lead caravans up country and back to the city before dark. We tell lots of stories – and spend lots of time schlepping luggage to and from the small airport.

Another term for this summer activity – short-term mission teams. While I’m not a fan of short-term anything when it comes to development work, we’ve discovered a way to weave short trips into long-term relationships. (This is worthy of another post, really.) We view these trips of days and teams of friends as expressions of a growing friendship between two communities. Each trip becomes a brick in the building of sustained relationship between a Burundian and an American community and over years we’ve constructed deep connections. We’ve witnessed transformation on both sides of the ocean due to these deep bonds. So we participate in the short-term trips as part of a long-term commitment to development in all communities involved.

We are now thick in preparations for our summer team. This is part of our yearly calendar – as it is for many expats, NGO workers and missionaries who live abroad and welcome summer teams. I thought it might be helpful to share things Claude and I have learned over ten years of hosting teams. This will be the first in a series of three posts; I’ll begin with the nuts and bolts of hosting – logistics.

Trip Logistics:

Photo credit: Tina Francis

Photo credit: Tina Francis

1.  Accommodations. We try to find a hotel or guesthouse that is comfortable enough for the team members to not be distracted by their own discomfort, yet allow for some gentle unease so that they are in touch with the realities of this place. This is a fine line. But we learned early on that if the team was too hot to get a good nights sleep, they’d be too exhausted during the day to be attentive to our Burundian friends, too tired to exert energy in making friendships across linguistic and cultural boundaries. So we work hard to ensure the accommodations allow reasonable amenities like running water, working bathrooms, good beds, fans and, where necessary, mosquito nets. Access to daily internet also seems to be a coveted amenity since people want to let family members know they are well and share pictures in real time. (We decided we are fine with this kind of connection, as they are off-line all day long with us and only have access during the hours they’re resting at the hotel.)

Now sometimes the electricity goes. Sometimes soldiers decide to do morning drills in front of your hotel, blocking the entrance and forcing you to stay put. Sometimes hot water runs cold – or not at all. This is part of the reality of life in Burundi. And it’s good for our friends to experience this too, to see the precarious nature of life in a small country where the infrastructure is waning or antiquated. This opens the door for conversation about daily challenges most Burundians face.

7 meal

2. Food. Good food is important for a number of reasons. First, we want our visiting friends to be healthy and full of energy while they are in country. So we work hard to offer meals that the team can trust – it’s cleaned properly, cooked well and there is enough to satiate a reasonable appetite. I remember before my first trip to Burundi Claude visited each local restaurant to test the food, he even ate at the homes of people who would host me for a meal to, again, ensure they could prepare food I could eat without fear. He went to great lengths to ensure food safety, and it meant I could eat without reservation anywhere he took me. We try to extend the same piece of mind to our team members – anywhere we take you has been vetted by us, you can eat without concern.

Second, we try to offer food that is familiar periodically throughout the trip. Some people are not adventurous eaters, and a steady diet of local cuisine can keep them from getting the nutrition they need to sustain their bodies. So we anticipate when the team might be due for comfort foods like pizza, pasta or pastries. When they are spending days out of their comfort zone, a simple meal that they recognize can calm the nerves and allow them to muster up energy for another day of adventures ahead. Pro-tip: if your team members seem overwhelmed or anxious, get them some comfort food ASAP!

Third, food is another way to share the local culture with your team members. So once you’ve vetted the source of the food, allow people to enjoy the taste of your city. In Burundi that means we offer lots of sweet pineapples, papaya, avocados and, when in season, mangos. We offer local fish from Lake Tanganyika, bugari (made with cassava flour), samosas and fresh roasted goat. We always invite our friends to share in a classique meal – the traditional Burundian family meal with rice, beans, stewed meat and sweet plantains. And you cannot come to Burundi and not enjoy the coffee and tea, grown locally, pungent and never decaffeinated. Let people taste and see – another sense to explore the goodness of a place!

And last but not least, ensure that there is a steady supply of clean water for the team. I remember in the early days Claude and I were shocked at the sheer volume of water our teams members consumed in a given day – it is one of the most costly line items in our trip budget. But we don’t want people to be dehydrated. We don’t want them to get sick drinking local water with unfamiliar elements in it. So investing in clean water is a must. We use bottled water when we travel up country, keeping a cooler in the back of the lead vehicle. (We do recycle all bottles and are careful to not litter the roads.) We have a water cooler in our home so when people come over for team meals or meetings, there is ample water available. We make sure there is water available at the hotel and in the rooms. So another pro-tip: double your water budget.

3. Scheduling. When it comes to scheduling, I used to think what mattered was pacing. I’d try to make the first day light since people are recovering from jet lag and adjusting to new foods and such. But Claude noticed early on that people come with energy and excitement, and there’s a natural adrenaline that seems to kick in, overriding any jet lag. So now we do allow for a generous first night’s sleep and a slow morning, but the rest of day one is full of good things.

marketplace

What has become more important for us in scheduling is story. Let me explain. When people come to Burundi on a team, they are joining a story already in progress. We want to introduce them to the local narrative by providing the context they need up front so that they begin to see the themes emerge with each additional day. So we would take the team to the first community we made contact with years ago early in the trip so they could see what we first saw and understand the genesis of our connection to the Batwa people. Only then did we take them to our community development project, where they could meet the families we partner with and see their progress against the back drop of where it all began. That simple chronological choice in planning made the story visible to our team. They could see with their own eyes the difference in the two places and begin to understand the arc of development and why it mattered.

Last summer we took the team to the burned out marketplace. We stood in the ashes and told them about the day the market went up in smoke – along with the businesses of many of our micro-finance clients. Only after that first chapter of the story did we go to our bank and talk about how we served our clients in their distress and helped them get back into the economy, only then did we drive down the road to visit clients amid business recovery. And when these friends talked about losing everything in the marketplace fire, our team already understood because they stood there and saw for themselves, they were already in the flow of the story. So here is another pro-tip: if you want your team to understand the larger story of what you are doing in country, chronology matters. Order your trip, as much as possible, according to the story you’re telling, not based on what is closer to the hotel, what is easier on your drivers or other concerns. (This means, of course, knowing the story you’re trying to tell before you begin planning.)

A quick side note about scheduling – allow time for rest. Too many trips move people from place to place, providing tons of stories and information, but offering no time for rest and reflection. When we offer a pause, we allow our brains time to “catch up” with what our bodies just experienced; we offer the heart time to feel the full force of the stories told. Time allows us to secure these new friends in our memory, to savor the sound of their voice and the truths they offered us without rushing and risking amnesia.

There is another thing Claude and I consider when it comes to schedules and storytelling, and that is avoiding “the danger of a single story” as Chimamanda Adiche says. If we only take people up country to spend time with our Batwa friends, then the only story they will know of Burundi is rural, impoverished, marginalized, without formal education (though all these things are changing!). But the truth of Burundi includes people who live in the city, people who work at banks and NGOs, artists, entrepreneurs and web designers and political leaders and educators. There are Hutus and Tutsis, people with wealth and some with a measure of power. So we work hard to share a full-bodied story. So part of our planning includes time up country with our rural friends and time in the city, we spend time with women leading business enterprises, small and large scale, as well as men who pastor and run local businesses and are professional photographers. We try to include time with local government officials – ministers in the senate or educational administrators or the minister of finance. We invite our local friends, most who speak English, to join our parties with our team members so that as they mingle, the team gets to know a variety of Burundians who comprise the texture of the city. My hope is that when someone says “What are Burundians like?” our team will have many ways to describe the people of Burundi – not only as poor, rural and needing help. Maybe they will say that some are witty, smart, working hard to improve their country as we do in our own nation. The variety of people our team interacts with is a key part of our scheduling.

shooks

4. Language. When you host people in Burundi, a Francophone country where Kirundi is the mother tongue and Swahili the marketplace vernacular, you have to consider language. We consider, at every level, where translation is required in order for our team to fully understand what is going on around them. We want them to be able to enter into the experiences as fully as possible. So sometimes we hire translators (I could tell you stories about the pitfalls of translators who try to translate for their own ends, not your teams best interest…). We try to keep this to a minimum, but sometimes it is necessary. We invite many of our multilingual friends to join us, people we trust and have relationship with, so they can help with impromptu translation as needed. Allowing our own friends to help with translation has been a great way to offer translation but also create space for friendships between locals and team members to arise naturally. Just make sure you trust your translators – if we need to hire them, check their references.

We try to plan as many activities as possible that do not require any translation at all. Dancing to the Burundian drum corps, coloring with the kids, playing sports together, planting cabbage, making pots and blowing bubbles… all fun things we do smiling, laughing but without a translator. Something happens when we can connect without words – something quite beautiful.

5. Activities. When we host short-term mission trips we often include activities or work projects. At worst, we have westerners come and do shoddy work or rob locals of employment with our free labor force. But at best, we can allow workdays to be amazing times of connection. Claude and I love to offer opportunities for our team members to learn from our Burundian friends. So a typical activity would be planting cabbage, allowing the Batwa women to teach the Americans how to plant and do it alongside them, sometimes even offering correction along the way. There is laughter and sweat all mingled together under the summer sun, and our friends usually walk up the hill with a new sense of appreciation for the skill and stamina of the Batwa women, they know who the experts are and respect them as such. We’ve had our team learn how to make bricks, mold pots from clay, build homes and plant trees – all in partnership with the Batwa friends and under their leadership and close supervision. It matters to Claude and I that our Batwa families are honored, that they get to teach and lead us and know respect on their own land. What is clear on the work days is that we come to learn and serve, not to save or improve or show them how to manage their own community. Together we work, laugh and become friends.

pot martha

I’ve already bent your ear for much longer than intended and I haven’t even mentioned bearing witness, gift-giving, sight-seeing and shopping day! But I think you get the idea – every element of planning a trip requires intention. If we want to make these trips count for the team members, for the host organization / church and the local friends, then we have to be thoughtful with each choice.

I’d love to hear from fellow practitioners – how do you plan the logistics of your short-term mission trips?

What are pro-tips you’ve learned along the way?

Where are you still trying to hone your planning / hosting skills?

{ ShePonders: Women’s Work }

M_Kelley

When I drop her off at school in the crisp morning, she turns to wave good-bye. She leaves me to my women’s work.

I drive to the coffee shop. I pull out my journal and write, fountain pen on hyper-speed and still trailing my racing thoughts. I try to write my way to a better neighborhood, maybe an alley in the New City. I tell stories from Burundi where the Batwa move from cracked ground to fertile soil soaked with promise. I spill mama-tales and scribble small epiphanies in the hope of leaking light in some corner of my own heart – or someone else’s.

I walk to the car and check Voxer, my lifeline to these women. There’s a conversation already unfolding across state lines and time zones, the many miles separating us unable to put a dent in our collaborative stride. Today we address single sentence descriptions for our books-under-construction. I’m stymied so The Editor writes mine – and it’s perfect. Others read theirs and we offer word changes or congratulations on a sentences well crafted. We decided weeks ago to all take the plunge and submit proposals together, pushing one another forward, pulling the best out of each one in turn.

Someone sent her work in first – we cheered. And when I did mine at long last – they cheered again. We co-labored on stories of Burmese weavers, Asian adventures that upended our mission models, Somali neighbors, worlds where kids can (or cannot) fly and reflections on adoption. We’ve become creative colleagues collaborating in writing but also in motherhood, sisterhood and dinner ideas. We have strong opinions about book titles with corners and teeth, Fiery Cheetos, patriarchy and chickens – so many thoughts on chickens.

Over Saturday lunch my daughter says, “I want friends like that when I grow up.” 

Read the rest of the story over at SheLoves Magazine today…

{ Deeper Family : Everyday Lament }

lament

Words pierce like a weapon. The comments crisscross via phone slashing her. In the middle of a seminary campus walks a woman with quick stride and a crushed heart. When we talk she’s stunned (or embarrassed) the words still ring in her ears days later. “You are allowed to have days like this one.” I say. I mean it; you are allowed to have hard days when your insides ache.

I thought of the need to lament disconnection whenever it happens. We’re wired for connection and any infraction is worth mourning, no matter how small.

***

A photo of goblets swollen with spirits triggers another’s appetite for a drink. It’s not what he expected as he scrolled through the innocuous Instagram feed. But social media can amplify our insensitivity, our ignorance or our blind spots. And now all he wants is a drink – or six.

I mourned in the moment. I stopped to lament our addictions, his and mine and yours. I certainly lamented the triggers. Oh, how I want the Great Doctor to heal us all soon, to pluck thorns from our tender flesh now. In the meantime I wish we’d be more mindful and kind, maybe set a few less (unintended) landmines for one another.

Read more about this week of lament over at Deeper Family…