I awake to my bed shaking. The window frames click and tick with the shifting earth beneath them. Another earthquake. Is it a bad one? In my sleepy stupor, I wonder if this time we will all have to dash onto the street in our pajamas. My heart pounds as I listen for voices and wait for more tremors.
But all I hear is the thump and whine of the garbage truck making its rounds like it does every night. It is comforting to wake up in uncertainty and then find the world is familiar after all.
Is this what my neighbor boy thought when I slipped across the street in the middle of the night to pick him up? While Mommy and Daddy were at the hospital awaiting baby brother, Little S had spent the evening with another neighbor but would not consent to spending the night. He filled their home with his wails.
When he saw me standing at the front door, he ran into my arms, sobbing as if he had just been waiting for something that made sense.
I picked him up and brought him home. He knows my house, and he knows me. We curled up on the couch after he had fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion. For hours, his breath shuddered from leftover sobs. The body does not quickly forget its tears. Spending the night away from his parents for the first time in his life wasn’t easy…for either of us.
But in a sense, I got to be his garbage truck–the familiar presence as the earth shifted beneath him.
Have you taken the time to contemplate Christmas: the beauty and hope…but also the earthiness? God made flesh. Immanuel.
I read recently that the Bible doesn’t record the bloody agony of Jesus’ entrance into the world, not because God is ashamed of Jesus’ humanity in light of His deity, but because those things were so normal that they weren’t noted. Everything was remarkable about a virgin great with child. What wasn’t so remarkable were the hours she spent delivering that Child.
Jesus was divine, yes. But He was also human. And when we forget His humanity, we forget how much we are known.
Hebrews says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace” (4:16). Why? Because He was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, He can sympathize with us in our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15).
That, of course, is only one part of the Word being made flesh, but it’s a part that I tend to forget. We are not fighting life’s battles alone. We can come boldly to the throne of grace to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
A few months ago, I mentioned that I hoped to share with you some of what I learned while writing an essay on hospitality. In May, a day trip to a mountain town with my neighbor’s family jogged my memory. My memory continued to jog, but only in place as the busyness of June took over.
Now here I am at last with my hospitality essay at my side. But my mind keeps returning to that mountain town…
As I sprawled out on the little sister’s bed during siesta time, my eyes roamed the room, spotting things stashed here and there. A rickety binder that looked as if it had been tossed on top of the wardrobe and promptly forgotten. Broken drawers in a dresser decorated with childish markers. An abandoned attempt at decor.
The untidiness spoke of things not cared for.
Yet there I was, a stranger to the family, welcomed into their home and offered a bed. Rather than buy expensive things and focus on protecting them from harm, this family created a space that said people mattered more.
The women set up a chair in the narrow kitchen doorway for me to sit and hold the baby and then spent the evening tripping over me as they bustled about. And they didn’t mind.
As we finished dinner around midnight, a deep weariness came over me as I looked around at the pile of people in the living room. As soon as they left, the cleanup would need to begin.
And then they left, and rather than being overwhelmingly dirty, the house looked almost clean. As I helped to stack the green plastic chairs and fluff the postage stamp pillows, I wondered why.
It was as if the people who had been in the room were the only decor. The room was serviceable not beautiful, because the emphasis was on the relationships of those who gathered rather than the things they gathered around.
I don’t believe that hospitality and taking care of things are mutually exclusive. However, coming from a culture that often values possessions more than relationships, I appreciate the reminder to engage the relational side of hospitality.
Oops. I’ve been rather long-winded and I haven’t even started my essay summary. Maybe next week? 🙂
A young friend dutifully praying on my guest room rug– “In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful…” –while above her were frames of Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Visitors from the U.S., the first in several years. I love cross-cultural work, but relating to those with whom I share both culture and faith is uplifting. And, Lord willing, more visitors arrive in a few days!
A Mediterranean baptism on a beautiful–albeit chilly– November day.
Uncontrollable evening laughter.
A bowlful of ripening avocados because I had mentioned to my student that if I had one food to live on, I would choose avocados. (She said she’d choose dates.)
A neighbor who asked for my tikka masala recipe.
Weather that begs for coffee.
A young mother who thought she knew me… and didn’t, but ended up asking for my phone number anyway.
A day trip to the mountains where I sat on a hill and talked on the phone like the un-hiker that I am. It was one of those hills with loose rocks and thorns that put “brickles in my britches. But I stayed there anyway.” (For that quote, you’ll have to read “What Was I Scared Of?” by Dr. Seuss.) Afterwards, my teammate and I unintentionally had tapas in a casino.
Storekeepers who drop the price without my even asking.
A climate where fruit is in season all year round. Right now it’s the mandarins that pop between teeth and turn to sweet puddles on tongues. And the fat persimmons. And rosy pomegranates. And even the chirimoyas, which I’m not particularly fond of but can appreciate in season.
Sunshiney Mondays that dry sheets and towels in a jiffy.
Unintentional late night discussions.
A landlady who opened the second bedroom of my apartment. (I rented the apartment as a one-bedroom flat, the second bedroom designated for the landlady’s storage.) With the prospect of multiple guests at once, I worked up the nerve and asked her if I might possibly please use the extra bedroom while my guests are around. She gave me an incredulous, “Mujer, it’s your house!” Nevermind the original agreement. I’ll nevermind anyway!
Workers at the print shop, startled to discover that they had indeed made my idea come true. And they ignored the customer behind me to admire their own handiwork.
A ticket quietly waiting for me to test negative for covid. And one suitcase bulging with eager Christmas gifts.
A birthday to celebrate this week. As I valiantly blaze through my 30s, I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to consider having a midlife crisis. Although, I’m not sure that’s really the sort of thing one plans for… Maybe next year…
And the very best thing of what has been happening recently? A new nephew, Zayne Davis born November 8 to two very proud parents. And no wonder they’re proud, because he’s terribly cute.
Zayne, as you start your life in this great big world, may you find the courage to be exactly who God created you to be, nothing more, nothing less.
Photo credit for last photo goes to my brother-in-law
Last Friday across the ocean, a little blondie was born. Really, it was Saturday here in Spain and I kept myself awake with whodunnits and carrot sticks until the announcement came.
Welcome, Dylan Thomas, to the family that loved you long before you were born. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God Himself. May this be your starting point as you find out who you are in this great big world.
One of these days summer will come. I’m not talking about the heat; I’m talking about the time. Summer is the season I have been holding out for in the crazy March, April, May, saying, “During summer, I will finally get to this or that.” I had a list of goals: learn how to sew better, develop materials for an English curriculum, refresh my Arabic, houseclean, and other noble goals like that.
It’s July, but I’m still waiting, thinking that summer and its abundance of time must begin soon.
In the meantime, life is full. Full of time with friends. Visits. Meeting new babies, both here and via WhatsApp. Appointments. Meetings. And even a chance to be a witness for my friend’s paperwork-only wedding at the mosque.
Maybe I need to redefine “summer.” Instead of labeling it as “extra time,” I should just label it as “life.” “Life” is a more realistic expectation anyway.
It was happening again. Round two of the same problem, only this time her hurt was bubbling up in anger. As rage overpowered her tears, she clawed at her clothing as if wanting to rip it—to rip anything—to shreds.
But was her reality real? Ever since I had met her months earlier, I had never been able to determine exactly where reality and her misguided perception began to blur.
And yet, her perception was her reality because it was the filter through which she understood life. Pain and shame were just as real in both truth and misconception.
And the questions I have asking myself over and over are:
What does loving her look like? How can I help? How do I enter into her reality and walk with her through her pain to bring her to truth? What does that look like practically?
That night, I held her baby while she wept and spat out in anger. I prayed for her but after my amen, I still let her ask the question, “Where is God in this?”
When she had calmed down, she stood up to leave. Anguish still twisted her features into a frown, but she thanked me for listening and praying.
Most of the time, loving isn’t easy. I will probably spend the rest of my life learning how to do it well.