Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Do Over

I need a do over. I woke up this morning, determined to write. Neglecting the much needed cleaning that had to be done before the flurry of daily activities began, I found a piece I had worked on before but wasn’t happy with. It had been on my heart, so I tweaked it and found it good. And hit publish. Then I sent it out on Twitter. And in that moment I knew, it was crap.

But it didn’t matter because my house was still trashed and now I had to leave and wouldn’t be back until dinner. Adam has class so it’s feed, bathe the girls, and clean the house by myself before a dozen moms and their children come at 9:29 am for small group in the morning.  But I ‘m paralyzed, feeling like crap, because I wrote like crap. And here I am using the word crap, over and over. Crap.

I check my Twitter over and over, running my phone battery down hoping someone will say they saw it and they liked it. No such luck. Instead, I see words that are probably innocent, but make me feel like what I’ve been doing for months wasn’t enough.

I want to leave this computer and walk into the dining room to see a friend sitting there with two cups of coffee and a piece of German Chocolate cake. I want to talk to her and tell her that today just sucked. And I feel like a complete failure. And I just want to be able to share my heart with people. And she’d smile, refill my cup of coffee, and ask me to share my heart with her. She’d ask me what I would have said this morning if I had a do over.

And I’d tell her.

I’d tell her stories of our two trips to Egypt. I’d tell her of the orphans we played with (little boys love arm wrestling). I’d tell her about the dirt roads, the mangy cats, and the taxi cabs that turned my Catholic as I’d said dozens of Hail Mary’s riding in them. I’d tell her about losing our cell phone in one of those death machines and how the taxi driver found us to return it and became our friend and tour guide the rest of the trip.

 I’d tell her about Arabic classes, about the flat we stayed in. I’d tell her about hearing the Call to Prayer echo in my ears. I’d tell her about how it felt to be a woman with blonde hair, being stared at even when I pulled it back and kept myself covered. I’d tell her about going to church only to be distracted as armed police man circled it the entire time.

I’d tell her about walking along the sea and praying for the girl with the flower. I’d tell her about how awkward it was to give a “sermon” to those teachers who didn’t speak English. I’d tell her that Nescafe and Barley drink taste delicious half a world away.  I’d tell her about the food, and how it felt like home.

I'd tell her of train rides, of monastaries, and of mosques. I'd tell her what it is like to be in a mosque during prayer as a woman.
Oh, and those Sudanese refugee children.  I would stick them all in my suitcase and take them home with me if I could have. I go back to that afternoon coloring with them so often, wishing it would last a lifetime.

And then I’d tell her how they asked us to stay. But I had just a week earlier accepted a job at my church, and I couldn’t let them down. But we planned on coming back. And we made posters, and postcards, and wrote letters, and started raising money….but it was too late. It didn’t work.  I’d tell her that I wonder if I missed it, and that if given the chance I’d go back to that moment and I’d stay.

I would cry hot tears in my coffee and my friend, she’d hug me and tell me that what I’m doing is important. That opening my house to mommas and their kids once a week is Kingdom work too. And that teaching those preschoolers on Sunday is changing lives in ways I’ll never know.  And what about my kids and my husband. That’s holy work right there.  I’ll smile, knowing she’s right, but knowing I’m right too. That somehow I missed that big God moment. And I feel like I’m paying for it.

Some days I really want a do over.

And so I leave the computer, and go to the dining room, and there isn’t a friend sitting there, just the dishes from dinner. And so I clean, and I do the work I’m given, reminding myself it is good and it is holy.  And I get ready to open my home, my life, to the mommas who’ll be here in the morning. And I try not to think about do overs.

Remembering Cairo

It is spring of 2004 and the taxi will only take us so far. Unceremoniously we are dropped off in the middle of a small dirt road. I breathe in deep and am overwhelmed. Decay. We pause briefly to adjust to our surroundings (Be with us, Jesus). Walking up the long steep road brings onlookers. Children follow me begging for anything I will give them. Dusty small hands fill my own and I wish my hand could enlarge to hold even more.  Little boys hang off of my husband’s strong arms, seeing how long he will give them a ride up the path. At some point along the trip, I realize that my feet have blended into the dirt and I can’t tell where it ends and I begin. My eyes well with tears as I think of the children who live in this muck created from the garbage of an entire city, dropped in their front yard (Be with them, Jesus).

I never get used to the smell, but the smiles on the children’s faces push it to the back of my mind. I fight back my tears; matching their smiles seems the least I can do. There are adults peering at us from inside doorways as they continue with their work. We are surrounded by eyes and even though we’ve been travelling for weeks now, and I’m used to stares, this is different. Here, my brothers and sisters in Christ are sitting in a pile of garbage, in their home sorting it because that is their job. This is the Cairo that I thought I was prepared for. This is their Garbage City.

We reach the top of that never ending hill and in front of us is the most breathtaking church I have ever seen. Carved (they say by the Hand of God) into the mountain itself is the largest church in the Middle East. Here, surrounded by so much garbage that the police don’t even bother coming, they have some protection, free to worship. Here in Cairo, where the Apostle Mark first came with the Gospel. Here, where there is still a group of Coptic Christians who fight not only for their religious freedom, but stand up for the freedom of all. Here, for the first time in 30 years, I ponder the difference between going to church and being the church.

Someone comes by to show us around, so proud of their house of worship and I am immediately humbled. They tell us how the lame walk, the deaf hear, and even the dead have risen. And I believe it. I know it. I can feel God here. How can’t you? This isn’t the presence I’ve grown accustomed to during times of worship in my church auditorium with the band playing and the power point projecting. It is being able to see how God abides with them, with us. He is the one smiling at me through children and holding my hands. I’m touching the Divine.

On the way back down I hold the hands of little girls, and I am certain, I can feel the holes in Christ’s hands.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Yesterday the girls sat together, all snuggled up close, blonde curls mingling so that Momma could sneak into her room and write. The air conditioner hummed and Elmo sang them into sillies, all while I wrote – wrote for the first time on that sad, underused blog. And I was brave, and I hit publish, and it was me and I was me.

But today that seems beyond me. How do I carve out time to write? Lucy wants one of her pudgy tanned arms on me at all times, and it is so hard to say no to a 14 month old, especially one this cute.

She loves the computer mouse, it’s pink, and if I’m not using it she’s commandeered it to be used as a car. Her feisty side comes out every time I take it away from her and that feisty side can move mountains, and wake her sister. How she became obsessed with a computer mouse is beyond me.

So I grab my journal and pen and scratch it out here so that I can be with her. Being with with her and her sisters is the path we chose and one I cherish. But I’ve learned I can’t be Momma without being Brenna. And being Brenna means writing = even if it is crappy because we’re all half awake and the coffee hasn’t brewed yet.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Broken and Brave

The sky is gray and it is only 79 at 9am, a nice change of pace from the 100 degree days we’ve been having that keep us inside, tired, and grumpy. But the drought still rages and the skies only hold promise of rain. This season is so hard, so unforgiving. It mirrors what’s stirring inside. I cry out for rain that doesn’t seem to come. My heart is breaking for the farmers.

My middle girl has been sick for a week. Pain that is too much for her usual tough girl self to take.  She’s a trooper and doesn’t even cry when her knee is opened and bloody from the pavement, but now she cries out and holds onto me shaking. Doctors don’t know. A specialist at the children’s hospital needs to be called if her healing doesn’t come. My heart is broken for her and all the kids and families at children’s hospitals, waiting for their healing.

My oldest is going to OT once a week. She seems to enjoy it, but I wonder if it will help her make friends. I worry about her, only 4 years old, and what her future will hold. I worry if peers and teachers will see the amazing girl she is, full of life, compassion, and a love for her Savior I’ve never seen for someone her age. And my heart breaks for her, and the other kids and moms I see in the OT office each week.

And we’re stuck in this damn condo, the one that is my fault we bought. And it’s beautiful and it’s home, but there is no more room. It lost so much value and we couldn’t sell it even if someone wanted it. And I tuck my three girls in at night and know there are two more I should be tucking in. We sit at our table for our meals and I look at the two empty seats and know they should be filled. And my heart breaks that we can’t adopt and make a home for two more.  My heart breaks for me and it breaks for them.

The city feels hard. Those dreams of making a difference, of immersing ourselves in a different culture seem so high minded, unrealistic, and oh so far away. Taxes, bad schools, lack of fresh air, gunshots, assaults, economic downturn, no room to move. I want to give my girls wide open spaces to breathe, to run, to imagine, and to create. But I want them in the city to be with others, to learn new cultures, to love the way Jesus tells us to. And I can’t have both. And I feel like a failure, I feel like an over-privileged phony. I’m a mess. Am I the rich young ruler? And my heart breaks for us all.

And each morning I read the blogs that I love. And their words encourage and edify. But when it comes time for me to write I can’t. There’s nothing new to say and everyone says it better anyway (who would read it if I actually used it?). And if I write out my truth, what if others are hurt? So I compose prose in my head as I wash dishes and change diapers. And at night I dream in poetry. My blog I set up years ago stays unused, shaming me each day. And my heart breaks that I let my dreams die and that I let fear rule.

And Sarah Bessey asks what is saving my life right now. And frankly, I have no idea. Because right now, it seems like nothing is. I’m broken. And I realize that what is saving me…my brokenness. My heart still breaks for others. In a moment of naivety I cried out to God, “let my heart break for what breaks yours” and even though my other answers haven’t come yet, that one has. And I see the orphans and I burn to help them. And even though it seems so out of reach, it’s saving me. And my one year old walks in my room, her chubby legs carrying her so proudly, and she wraps her arms around my neck, gives me a wet and messy kiss and talks to me in something akin to speaking in tongues. And she’s saving me. My three year old cuddles next to me and tells me that it is starting to feel better after my oldest prayed for her, and that’s saving me. And my big girl wakes to tell me of the wonderful dream she had, and how Jesus speaks to her at night and that I don’t need to worry. And thank you Jesus, she’s saving me.  And my husband friend sends me a text message to hang in there and that he loves me, and he is saving me.

And I open up my book of Common Prayer, hoping to feel, and I read, “Make us one with your poor, O Lord: that we might see the salvation of our God.” And I thank my God, for right now He is saving me.