Lots of hugs.

 Isaac and Jazzy helped me push the chariot down to the bike mechanic when it wouldn’t start, then sat back and had an old man chat.

Isaac and Jazzy helped me push the chariot down to the bike mechanic when it wouldn’t start, then sat back and had an old man chat.

The past week has been very full. Full of tears and hugs, much joy, many friends.

(Also a lot of news. I follow it, I weep for it, my heart goes out to victims of sexual harassment. There is so much brokenness in this world, so many sins against the body, the spirit of our most vulnerable people. God help us to change, to show compassion and understanding.)

First, we successfully surprised Chinua on his birthday. It was worth every moment of preparation to see the look on his face. After Devotion Circle, we managed to get everyone back from the garden and gathered at our house, and it was Ro’s job to somehow get him to come back. After some moments of trying to figure out what they were going to do, Chinua suggested coming back to our house to drop instruments off. 

Because it was his suggestion, he was floored when he arrived and out of the dark came a little Happy birthday composition, featuring a few guitars, the piano and a clarinet.

I’ll remember the look on his face forever.

At the moment we have a gathering of communities from around this part of the world; mainly the other Shekina communities in India and a community from Israel. We’ve been praying, singing, and eating together. Yesterday we had a circle on the theme of friendship with God and friendship with each other. 

I’m a strong believer of friendship first, a belief I have come to after a lot of trial and error. You know that thing where you look at your spouse as a person to blame because they are like a business partner in the business of your home and family and they have not met your expectations? Yes, I know that thing. In hardship I have a tendency for flipping between outward blame and self loathing. Neither are necessary. Blame and self loathing are both tactics to try to get the bad feelings away. 

You can just feel them. The sadness, the grief, the fear. And put friendship first, learn to go through things together. People in the circle shared about their experiences with friendship, and it was inspiring.

Next week we go down to Chiang Mai for a bigger gathering of communities from around the world. I’m also going to be hard at work on the final edit of Demon’s arrow, which comes out in less than three weeks! I’m very happy to share it with you.

Also, here’s a post that I wrote on the Shekina blog this week: Holy and Dearly Loved.

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. The patron extras from last month are up. Here are last month’s extra blog post, Thoughts after 17 years of marriage, and the September Creative Update Video.

Fermented turtle feet.

IMG_3097.JPG

I am finally home after my unexpected trip. 

I walked home from the bus station with my lugguge and could hear Chinua playing trumpet as I got close. Wookie whined at the gate when she realized it was me. Then there were all the hugs, sweaty ones from kids at the end of a long hot day. I sat beside Chinua at the piano and we talked about music. I lay beside Isaac as he went to sleep. “Just one time this week, okay?” I said. He threw his arm over me and drifted off.

This morning I stepped over Solo, Leafy and Kenya, all asleep on the front porch. This is a new thing, the sleeping on the porch. I like it. I wouldn’t do it, when my bed is only a few feet away, but I like it. I like them creating adventure wherever and whenever.

Yesterday I finished my most recent edit of Demon’s Arrow. Today I sent it off to my new editor, a friend who lives here in Thailand. The book is nearly finished, although we have to hurry if we’re going to have it out on release date: October 25th! 

I have been floating, not always in the safest of spaces. Old wounds have reopened, my anxiety cat has woken me at night, sitting on my chest. And when I am away from home and family, it seems as though I am untethered. I’m not, of course. But that is easier to remember at home. 

I have wondered, at times, how it is that someone like me came to be surrounded by so many people. Such an introvert, such a strange mind. But I see it more and more clearly; I couldn’t do without them.

Here is Isaac with another sweaty hug. Here is Solomon, rushing into the room dancing while Chinua is showing me songs on the speakers, telling me his theories on the connections between jazz and rap. Solo pulling out everything he has drawn while I have been away. Leafy reminding me that he is going to be thirteen in January, as though perhaps I have forgotten. (I know, it’s impossible.) Kenya and the menu she created for dinner (I was too late for it.) Megalodon stew (sold out.) Fermented turtle feet soup. (Sold out.) Pasta with white sauce. Available for about $300. 

IMG_3096.JPG

Here is morning. The neighbors pull their carts out onto the street to sell rice porridge or coffee. Children on the porch. My plants need watering. A pup who needs a haircut. We’re out of eggs. I need to buy bananas for smoothies. The ladies at the market will ask me where I’ve been. They’ll pat me on the arms and tease me and the gentleness of these greetings will nearly make me cry. 

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. Last month’s patron-only post: At Home.

This and that.

36770254_2306873269339588_7019467456481591296_o.jpg

My Superstar Husband just got home from playing music in Sweden; a trip that took a little under 3 weeks.

If this was eight years ago, I may have taken you through a day by day series on how I was coping with him being gone while I worked and taught and took care of all the kids. Now I mainly just get on with life, and try to find a few minutes every day to sit by myself in the quiet. This is my season. I am fully in it: teaching, working at many things, finding rare moments of solitude. I won’t be in it forever. The kids won’t be home forever. I want to enjoy it. 

Of course, eight years ago I had four kids under the age of eight, so it was a little rougher on me when Chinua left on extended trips. Now I have these great teenagers who both give more and take more in many ways. (They take so much mental energy, and they give so so much help to the household.) 

The main thing I found when Chinua was gone this time was that I was fine for a week, okay for a week and a half, and then during the last week, I lost my spark. I felt dull and listless and I found myself going through the motions. I really like the man I married. He plays the piano, guitar, trumpet, mandolin, he is ridiculous and silly, he brings a lot of life to our house. I don’t know what I would do without him.

*

Sometimes the most valuable thing that someone brings to a relationship is their essential self. I’m seeing that more and more lately- how we each bring something that is entirely us, that no one else can bring, and there is no way to replace it.

You are so valuable, Reader. I hope you know it.

*

Leafy’s current obsession is medieval armor. We have all these little chain mail links around the house because he has been making chain mail out of wire. 

Whenever I tell Leafy something good about himself, he gives a little hop. Leafy’s hop is one of my favorite things. It’s how I can tell that he is happy and well. We all love our Leafy Boy so much. I am pretty fierce with love for him. 

*

Life is so busy in every single area that I’m trying to focus on getting little bits done here and there, rather than having large chunks of work done. Ro and I replanted three crepe myrtles on Thursday (little bits), I have a nice fiction writing streak going (little bits), I’m working my way through emails (little bits), I’m decluttering as I go. Reading to the kids. Making a loaf of bread or knitting a couple rows. Making a phone call or making a copy of a passport. (Little bits.)

*

I’m so close to finishing the first draft of Demon’s Arrow (World Whisperer 4) that I can taste it. I’m doing little bits every day… I’ve been in the creative mud so much with this book that I have to take it more gently. But it’s so, so close. I’ll probably share some first draft stuff over at Patreon when it’s done. 

*

Kenya and I have our first collaborative painting up at Etsy. I love working with this girl. I’m also working on getting some blank cards up in the shop. I’ll have individual cards and a choose-your-own 6 card set. 

Every day I pray for the kids in the cave. The wait feels unbearable. 

*

The world is full of grief and anger, wrongs that go on and on, sorrow and power hungry giants. Today I pray that I can make my home a place of peace, that people would feel welcome here. I pray that our community space can feel like walking into love. I pray that my corner of the Internet would feel welcoming to all, to every single person, especially those who are longing for a home. 

I love you, Readers. God loves you. You are swimming in love. I pray that you can feel it.

Canada Day Sale of A Traveler's Guide to Belonging

Right now, A Traveler's Guide to Belonging is on sale for $1.99 on all major ebook retailers. Hooray! Get it here. 

Also, have I ever been in such mud with a book as I am right now? Yes, yes I have. I am SO CLOSE to writing The End on the fourth World Whisperer book, but this book might kill me. And then I'll need to be resurrected to write Book 5. I think it's worth it though. 

And Chinua is in Sweden playing music. He's been gone for about two weeks and will be back on Friday. Send help. And chocolate. And noodle salad. We miss each other badly. Thankfully I have these great kids to hang out with.

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. A special thanks to new patron, Teresa Q. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

Tiny ways.

 Photo credit: Kenya Ford

Photo credit: Kenya Ford

Last night I went for a drive and all the edges of the clouds were edged with light. 

“Pull me up there,” I whispered.

Are you tired of escape poetry from me?

Listen, I’ve been running forever. Even when I run in place, right there in my kitchen thinking I should really get away but these children surely need to eat so here is the chopping block, here is the kale. Make it healthy, make it full of love.

Even when it’s just a corner of my soul retreating with my imagination, hand in hand. 

Trees, my soul whispers, leaves. The rustling light of leaves.

And my imagination concocts a new kind of Anne of Green Gables, one who actually gets power from trees, because trees and water buffalo and tiny tailor birds tell me that it is okay to be alive.

I am grateful for the books of my childhood. 

Wise people in the world create beauty out of violence, come out scathed but intact, and I have never experienced true violence, I have nothing to run from, really, except for the parts that feel like they will flake off if I can’t protect them sometimes.

I am better at staying when I run.

Here’s what it is: all the world of people is a code I don’t understand. Getting it wrong feels like stepping off a cliff, my heart in my throat. Twist of the ankle. Even after all this time, nearly forty years, I still don’t understand. I can tell myself and tell myself and tell myself. I write notes and notebooks and learn and memorize and I plunge myself in again and again. I ask questions. I study faces. I learn what is right and wrong and then I say something and it is the wrong thing again and maybe if I was different I would shrug the misteps off, but that is not me and I cry and cry until it feels like my eyes will explode. And then I get up and go into the world again. 

I am so tired. 

Yesterday, feeling my worst, I went to the pharmacy to get some allergy medicine for Kai. It was the kind of day when I felt exposed and afraid of people's eyes, like I didn’t want to be seen at all, I wanted to be invisible. But kids need medicine sometimes, so there I was in the shop. And in front of me were two older Karen men, in town from their village which was probably nearly two hours away. They were short, wearing tribal clothes, tasseled bags at their sides. They looked like they might be brothers, with the same lines in their faces. They stood and discussed all their options, with a leisurely sense of time, and as they did, they reached out to one another again and again, with an arm slung around the back, or gently touching the shoulder, or a hand on the back of the other’s neck. It was purely unconscious, little gestures of affection in the sterile pharmacy, figuring out medication and vitamins, one man translating the pharmacist's Thai words into Karen for the other.

I was so sad, but even then I couldn’t help seeing it. Tiny ways of being there for one another.

My little community has been having some rough days as we try to figure deep things out, and that means more situations where we all feel like we are out of our depth. And in the midst of it, my friends have been kind to me and to each other in generous ways. Leaf, made of light, bringing hope with her words, reaching out, speaking kindness, touching my arm or my elbow or my knee. Ro holding my hand, resting her head on my shoulder. Winnie with her endless kindness, checking in, buying iced coffee, pouring out love. Miri sending me verses and a picture she drew. Brendan with a bowl of food, offering to drop Solo off at his Science club. Josh with jokes and little nudges of humor that say, “You are my friend.” Neil and his rumbles and hums and murmurs of support. Olga with care for my daughter, showing up for hugs and a brief talk on the bench outside my house. All of our Pai community, with smiles on the motorbike, nods, music and help. And Chinua, my own, beloved Chinua, the Superstar Husband whom I have memorized, with arms and voice and lips that all say home. Chinua playing piano, Chinua giving me a hug, Chinua bridging gaps again and again.

I see all these things, these unconscious ways that we reach out to each other, speak love of God with one another. I name them, write them down, and the world feels livable again. Maybe I don't have to disappear.

There are light edged clouds, and there is rice in the bowl. Stones in the jar, in my hand. Imagination and the books of my childhood. My kids and other peoples’ kids swirling around like a stream of silliness and love. Poetry. All is not hopeless. The world is confusing and hard sometimes, and it circles around in new and surprising depths of hurt or pain, but it is edged in light.