This and that...

I went for a walk this morning. The world is coming back to life in shades of green. Perhaps if I tried hard enough, I could fly.

I may have looked a little crazy, muttering prayers as I walked. That’s okay, I’m used to looking different, even crazy. Maybe I am crazy. Certainly it feels that way sometimes, as though there is a zoo inside rather than just a girl. The elephants won’t shut up. And the gibbons! Oh the gibbons.

We started school at our house four weeks ago. It’s the Thai way, to start again after the holidays of April, which is the hottest month. May was hot as well, but we lived through it and now I walk in the cool mornings and stare at the tamarind fruit in the trees by the road. The trees are tall, too tall for fruit picking, but I imagine flying up.

I thought of starting another school year and all it means. With homeschool it’s possible to get caught up ticking boxes, or to get overwhelmed and I like to remind myself of what I believe about learning every year. The future isn’t an endless parade of days. I whisper these words to myself in the mornings, I say them out loud to the kids: To play, to learn, to explore thoughts and ideas, to read new stories and write new stories, to learn how to express and how to listen. To dream and make things together, to discover what life is really about, how things work, and what things lift the heart. To explore and grow, to do good in the world and care about others because we have learned something about them.

It beats ticking boxes, though we do that too.

I’ve been having trouble with my neck lately, the old accident wound that still bothers me, thirteen years later. More trouble than usual, but it makes me realize that maybe there’s a word for my type of pain, and maybe that word is chronic, which is a scary word. But using that word doesn’t mean anything different from what I already experience, does it? It’s another sort of meditation; on the body and pain and what can happen outside of pain, what pain cannot control. Paul, a writer in the Bible, calls the body a tent. And though I work from my tent, I run and walk and exercise and eat will, I will not have it forever. And I am very brave. 

And perhaps it is pain, perhaps it is four years of being here, but I am restless. I feel a longing for something that feels like home, though home is here. Maybe it is the forested islands of BC that I long for. But if I was there, I know I would long for Thailand, for Asia. This great discontent is another sort of meditation. My home is in God, my home is in God, my home is in God. My home is in the great, otherworldly Being who shapes mountains, who is the force behind the feeling of belonging, who lifts and soothes and challenges. He is my home. I belong in him. I am in his story.

Ro guided a Devotion Circle about beauty the other day. We talked about beauty and what it is and what it guides us to. We thought about beautiful things. I shared the prayer that Leafy prayed, “Thank you God for creativity, curiosity, and the soothing taste of water.” —one of my favorite prayers ever. I think now of the light in the garden, of Leaf when she wears her bamboo basket to pick basil or chard from the veggie patches, of the birds in the morning, of the painting Kenya made for me, of Isaac’s crazy smile, of China playing the piano, of the fact that we can talk to God and he leans in close to hear us. There are so many beautiful things, more than I can count. I whisper them to myself in the morning, I say them out loud to my friends. It makes me imagine that I will become comfortable with the zoo, perhaps, even the gibbons doing all their gibboning.

Birthday thoughts.

I just had a birthday, and it was my 36th

I love the way a birthday makes me think about the years; what has been working, or not working, where I’ve come from, all the corners and edges and horizons of my life. 

I’ve been writing it all down for a while, now, almost 11 years of writing in this space. It has changed for me, become something different as I’ve grown. Writing a book has gone from a dream to a reality, a few times over. I’m no longer the mother of three preschool aged children. I’m a little more stable, a little less desperate. But I still battle anxiety every day, and sometimes depression too. I have found many, many things to be joyful over. I still seek beauty. I’m a little less whiny. I’ve lived in many houses in a few parts of the world. I have used a squat toilet on a moving Indian train while 36 weeks pregnant. 

God has led me down many paths, and stretching in front of me, as far as I can see and beyond, are more paths, roads, mountains, rivers. I love him so much, I have been carried and kissed by the Lord of the Universe. I am thankful for the fields and valleys he has guided me through. For the family that is larger than I imagined, the different countries of my mind, the different countries in real life. I go through hard and dark things, and they sometimes leave me gasping, but the softness is there, the love, the way God is so tender and good. I wish my anxiety away, and it does not leave me, and neither does my confusion about the way people work, or the sensitivity I curse sometimes. 

And then the morning comes, with its light and birdsong, and Isaac comes to surprise me and there are all these children in my life, keeping me humble and sharpening my sense of humor. It is a beautiful chaos, with a thousand ways of being, living in a culture that isn’t mine (for SO many years now), always trying to understand, always with the chance of being a little more loving, receiving and giving a little more love.

We are often hard on ourselves. (I’m sure you are too.) And because of my mind and the way it works, I wrestle with the meaning of life, with suffering and messing up, with why on earth we exist, what it’s all for. (“Just sing the Mini Coop Coop song,” my Superstar Husband would tell me.)

If your mind doesn’t ever seem to want to let you rest, here is my advice for you. (From the wise old age of 36.) And I will try to take my own advice.

Imagine yourself on a hillside, surrounded by birdsong. The warm grass you sit on is the stable love and understanding and acceptance that God holds for you. The sky above you is filled with a thousand tiny birds, swooping and diving and singing for you. This is all the joy of the days ahead. You are surrounded by love, both inside and out. 

Write stories. Draw pictures or make something the way you love to make it. Play with your kids. Sit on the floor with them. Being with God, receiving and giving love, this is the true meaning of life. Giving love in all of its forms; to the people you touch during the day, to your friends and family, to those in need. Inject small moments of love. Reading aloud for half an hour, picking flowers together, family drawing time. Look for the beauty, look for the tiniest shining things. Fill your mind and heart with thankfulness for these things, because this is presence of God with us, this is Jesus walking beside us, saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The dishes when they’re done, the teasing of a 13-year-old, the hugs of a 10-year-old.

 

It means everything. It will form another beautiful year. Thanks for reading, dear friends. 

A Poem for Mothers Everywhere

I couldn't find a poem that said what I wanted to say for Mother's Day. So I wrote one. Here it is, this is what I want to say. This is for my own mother, and for all the mothers, especially the ones I know and love. But it's also for you.

Mother

She was caught
smiling
in a net of sleep
cushioned in the softness, down and down,
diving under, lost in it, turning
stretching, weightless, anxiety free
unconscious of desire or
loss, unfettered.

until
the cry. 
It came from the darkness, razor-like, cutting
through the ribbons that suspended her from
her life and
she crashed back down
opened her eyes, rubbed them, remembered.
hauling herself to her feet,
she remembered love,
again and again she remembers
she falls out of sleep and into 

love, 
the hopeful eyes
the waiting mouth, the full breast
she holds and soothes and gives the perfect answer
I am here, 
I am exhausted, I am irritated, I am barely awake
but I am here.
She will always be here
in the night, in the early morning
In the dog-tired noon of the hottest days,
for small, soft, little ones
for the big ones, the sun-warmed long limbs and anxious tics
for gulping and burping and the most annoying questions
to untangle the knots of the arguing siblings
to lose it, and apologize, and sit quietly
to play, sometimes, hopefully

she remembers upon every waking,
that love— its ribbons can never be cut—
And like a lion she says it again: I am here. 

Dear Isaac, (A Letter to my 3-year-old son.)

Dear Isaac,

You are three years and three months old, and you are the funniest little boy I know. People often say that it is right that your name means laughter. How can I describe you? You are tough, soft, dancing, stubborn, you love beauty and fruit, you insist on your own way. You are excited by life, you sometimes confide in strangers and sometimes scowl at them.

You were bitten by a dog in a bus station the other day. None of us saw you walk toward it, thinking it was another dog, and getting a bite on the cheek for trying to pet it. A sudden scream and you ran toward me with blood on your face. We taped you up, got you on the bus, and six hours later, we went to the hospital in Chiang Mai. You were very brave. You got two shots, one in each arm, before they injected your face and you decided that you had had enough. It was hard to watch you being sad and getting injections, but mostly I was proud of you, because you were so courageous, so fun, so interested in everything, (you sat up on your gurney at one point and asked, “Mama, why do these neighbors have medicine?” and I really had no idea how to respond to that) and so full of life and sweetness. You told me that coconut is better than any chocolate. And then we walked out and caught a red truck to get back to our hotel and go to sleep.

You are very quirky. You get places mixed up. You get the words, Hospital, Hotel, and Hotsprings mixed up. So sometimes I say, “We’re going to the hospital,” and you jump up and down and cheer. Because you think we’re going to the pool and hot springs and you’re going to get to swim. 

You get bigger places mixed up too. 

A while ago you said, “In America, there are a lot of chickens and dinosaurs, and the road is broken.” I blinked at you. “Are you talking about India?”

“No! America!” 

“Are you talking about Chiang Mai?” I pushed.

“No, America!”

Okay.

Or people, and relationships.

“What’s a wife?” you asked me.

“A wife is…” 

“No! Kenya said a wife is… Uncle Neil’s wife is about… Auntie Ro. Uncle Brendan’s wife is about… Auntie Leaf. Uncle Josh’s wife is about… Auntie Omi.” 

“That’s true.” I said.

Kenya filled in, “And then he asked, is Jazzy’s wife Elkie?” 

We laughed and said, “Elkie is Jazzy’s sister. Jazzy doesn’t have a wife, just like you don’t have a wife.” 

“I do have a wife!” he said. “My wife is in America.”

Hmm. 

Practical life with you can be an exercise in patience.

“I will brush my teeth by myself.” 

“Okay.”

“After I do my breathing.” 

And then you proceed to do some very interesting breathing exercises, as though you are going to give a speech or try to make your way through a difficult childbirth.

Time is also a bit difficult. Everything in the past for you is Yesterday. “Yesterday I was a tiny baby.” “Yesterday I was in India.” 

You are learning letters, and can tell us the letters on packages you find. “Why does this say K-L-I-M?” you asked the other day, about a box of soy milk that you found. 

You have learned to swim. You taught yourself. You kick your feet and dive down, learning to love the feel of your body moving through water, the way the water holds you up and surrounds you. And I watch you swimming, and you come grinning toward me with your face wide open in smiles, your dimples, your little fish body, and I feel so much love for you. We have a favorite game, one we play when you are being "a trial." 

"I love you when you're happy and when you're sad," I say.

"And what else?" you ask.

"When you're sleepy and when you're excited."

"And what else?" 

"When you're mad and you're sweet. I love you all the time."

"And what else?"

The game goes on, and it will always go on.

I love you Isaac, my little bear,

 

Love,

Mama