The Importance of Darkness

Mama? Can I just snuggle?

I knew that it was somewhere around 6:00. Frank had already left for work; I was starting to wake up, too but the sun hadn’t yet peeked through our curtains. Normally, we try to keep Bea in bed until her alarm turns green but on this morning, I moved Frank’s pillow closer and tucked Bea in beside me.

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Image courtesy of Debby Hudson.

I’ve been working a lot lately and my part-time job has felt full. Our girls have felt the strain of time and energy. Even though Bea recently asked if I could go back to work so she could have a nanny like our neighbors, being gone so much had an impact.

When Elle misses me, she gets extra clingy, not wanting to be set down. When Bea misses me, she swings between being extra affectionate and being a rabid jaguar. Sunday seemed to lean more toward the jaguar end of the spectrum and I was so tired.

So, when she asked to snuggle, part of me just wanted time before we started our day together. But, I also knew that this girl who thrives on physicality – from hugs and snuggles to running and being active – needed to just be near, to be grounded.

I feel like I’ve needed to re-ground myself lately. I still wake up in a bit of shock over choices being made by our soon-to-be leaders. I’m sickened and sad over the way events are being handled and people are being treated. The divide in ideology makes me so sad and sometimes I wonder if the gap will be bridged.

I swing between wanting to listen, learn, and understand and feeling a bit rabid at the inexplicable fear of a majority culture. So I’m learning to ground myself. To stop for a while and step back. I know I can do this – that my own privilege allows me to turn of the news and curl up with my family – but I do it anyway, knowing that as someone with privilege, I can’t burn out.

Advent drawing 2015
Image courtesy of Corbin Hillam.

As we near Thanksgiving, I look over our Thankful Tree, hanging between our dining room and living room. Hiking, bath night, neighbors, PBS kids, cheese, community, walking to school have all made the list. I love having this tangible reminder of the tiny things I am so grateful for.

In so many ways, I’m glad Thanksgiving falls right before Advent begins. To celebrate with a feast of thankfulness (regardless of historical accuracy) seems to be the best way to prepare for this coming season when we celebrate the dark anticipation of hope come to this world.

Last year, I clung to Advent in the wake of attacks on Paris, of injustice after injustice happening here in America, as the refugee crises continued to swell. This year, things seem so much better in some ways and yet are still so bleak in others. And so, I will take time this Advent season to remember and pray. Perhaps it won’t be as public this year, but the habit of remembering and acknowledging in this darkness is so important.

This December, I want to light the candles and remember the way of peace, of hope, and of reconciliation.

How do you recognize Advent in the midst of Christmas celebrations?

For a beautiful series of community prayers around Advent, check out our Praying in Anticipation series from last year.

Dismantle and Replace

It’s happened again. People killed without trial. Retaliation. Leading with fear. Responding with more fear.

I read the news and wonder, How long? How many times? When will we learn??

Sides are taken. Names are called. People refuse to budge on The Big Issues.

And the cycle continues and repeats.

And I wonder, again, and again, and again. What can I do???

And I learn again, and again, and again. Stop, listen, lean in. Support. Teach my kids a different way. A way that is not rooted in fear but in love and hope.

I’m learning that the way to change things is sometimes to rebuild entirely. And yet, we can’t rebuild entirely a system that is engrained. A system built on hundreds of years of fear.

So maybe we rebuild slowly. We dismantle one small stone and replace it with hope and love. We dismantle one small idea and replace it with one of hope and love.

I don’t like slow moving change. I want people to open their eyes. To see the need to replace fear with love and to act. But I see over and over that we need to work small. That change is in the small work, frustrating though it may be.

So, with my small children, I make small changes. I build and rebuild and learn and grow alongside.

And I fervently hope and pray for a future that looks at this time in history with disbelief and shock. Because small changes slowly give way to big ones.

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “build.”

Overwhelmed

Most days, I keep a certain distance from the news – I read throughout the day via headlines on Twitter and a few apps I’ve downloaded. I like being informed and strive to read a variety of sources. But, sometimes it feels overwhelming. Like we are so far from any sort of reconciliation. Like our world is spiraling.

Last night felt like that. As I read more and more about what is happening in Ferguson, I wondered what on earth I could do. I’d like to think that, if I lived in that suburb, I would be supporting the protestors. I would be doing something. The reality is I would probably be safe at home, horrified at the news down the street, but with the same feeling of helplessness. And of safety because of my status as a white woman.

This morning felt worse. And then I read Addie Zierman’s post, A Good Day to Come Awake – on choosing not to let fear isolate us from others; on choosing to believe the truth. I decided that, rather than feeling overwhelmed, I needed to be thankful for ways I can make changes to this system in my own small way.

I’ve been trying to expand my reading on racial reconciliation in the church. We go to a pretty white church and I think it’s important to be aware of these issues. Christianity Today posted Ten Books on Racial Reconciliation. Of those, I’ve read two – Disunity in Christ and The Next Evangelicalism, both well worth the time. I’ll be adding to my reading list based on these resources.

Working on a more multicultural collection
Working on a more multicultural collection

It’s a small thing, but we’ve been trying to expand the color of Bea’s dolls. She’s inherited some of my old ones (all white) so when we buy new ones, we look for dolls of different colors. For her birthday, she received Nahji from India and Miss Elaina from Daniel Tiger. In this little way, I hope to instill empathy and a normalcy in others who look different.

I know that in the midst of this chaos, these are minute things to do – reading and playing. But, for now, it’s what I can do in this moment. These small ways of being aware, of being intentional, and of trying to raise a generation with understanding, empathy, tolerance, and love for neighbor.

How do you process the news? Any suggestions for ways to fill hopeless news with reconciliation?