Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Oh, my heart is breaking into a million pieces over Aleppo today.

There's a lot that I should do, but I can't help but read article after article-just glued to this horrible massacre unfolding now, in 2016, while we all watch and let it pass. I am angered today by my tears- tears accomplish nothing.

The executions, the 100+ unaccompanied children trapped in a building taking fire, the starvation, the goodbye tweets. Oh, my heart is heavy to imagine for one second what it might be to live through this.

I'm holding close my baby. Crying to imagine what it must be to not be able to feed her when she's hungry. To not have water when she cries of thirst. To be unable to calm her fears, to promise her that the sun will rise tomorrow-or that she'd be there to see it anyways.

What feels like all too often this past year, when my heart is heavy and hurting, when my tears are too many and I can't imagine what it is I'm to do, I repeat these words:

"You hear us calling, you hear us calling, Abba Father
 You hear us calling, you hear us calling, Abba Father
 Lord have mercy
 Christ have mercy
 Lord have mercy
 Christ have mercy."

  The Brilliance- Prayers of the People

For anyone else grieving over this on-going tragedy, here's something you CAN do- donate to preemptive love. I've been following these guys work the last month or so and have been so impressed. They're feeding thousands of people who have made it out of Aleppo. You can read about some of their work here: https://preemptivelove.nationbuilder.com/aleppo

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Jubilee's Christmas Poem

In the midst of this darkness and chaos and strife
You entered the world and you breathed in its life

So helpless and cold, the room filled up with cries,
You looked up at our tender and jubilant eyes

In the gaze of this fragile, immaculate face
We also felt helpless and desperate for grace

Such innocence we’d never dreamed could exist
A picture of promise and infinite bliss

When I think of my little girl’s tale still untold
When I pray for her path that has yet to unfold

I’m filled up with hope because all that’s in sight
Is a future that’s full of potential and bright
But also at times I am swallowed by fear,
For stories of heartache are painfully near

Why should I hope, and why should I pray?
Our joy could be crushed into sorrow today

For innocence seems like a short, fleeting breath
Choked out in the grip of our suff’ring and death
Yet when doubt sings its whispers in my straining ear
When no spark in this world full of darkness appears

I remember that poor insignificant inn
Above which a star shone a shimmering glint

When light from a vast, insurmountable height
Came down in the form of an infant that night

God’s answer and comfort to innocent cries
Was found not in an audible word, but a life

A father’s unearned, inconceivable love
Was instilled in the life and the heart of a son

Who entered the world in the form of a child
Like my little one, so meek and so mild

He too endured hardship and tasted our pain
He too had his innocence stolen away

In a plan to redeem what is lost and corrupted
And all that our evil and sin has disrupted

All darkness was pierced and enveloped by light
That appeared in the inn on that humblest of nights

Written by Mark

Monday, September 5, 2016

Cloth Diapers and Miss J Way

Well, we are about one month in to our cloth diapering and absolutely loving it so far!

Years ago when our besties and roomies were pregnant and preparing for their little one, they opened my eyes to the idea of cloth diapering. I had thought it was a world of sharp pins that will (physically and mentally) scar both mama and baby, but soon learned much had changed in the cloth diapering world.

Many of our friends in BKK use cloth diapers, so I was excited to learn more about this growing trend when we discovered we were pregnant. But here's the thing- this world of cloth diapering can be sooo overwhelming. So, a few things this google addict of a mama researched/discovered/learned over the last few months:

1.  Brand

There are a million bajillion types of cloth diapers out there. I spent hours asking mama friends, reading blogs and reviews, etc. But honestly... I think they are all pretty similar and every family has their preferences. In the end, I decided to go with Bumgenius. However, the research did not end there as Bumgenius has their 4.0, 5.0, freestyle, elemental, and flip design. So many options!

Right now we are using Bumgenius Freetime. I was able to purchase twenty of the Bumgenius diapers used for about $10/diaper. I believe the typical price for a new diaper is $19.95, so I was happy to spend $10 on barely used diapers! (I also have several of the 4.0 version, as well as some Charlie Banana diapers that were gifted to me-which are much cuter designs, in my opinion. I may begin rotating these in now that we have a good system in place.)

Tips: Buy used- lots of people are selling these on craigslist and facebook sell groups. You can even find unused diapers from mamas who hoped to use cloth diapers, but changed their minds once their little ones arrived. You can find find moms willing to ship, so don't limit your search just to your area! I started with the Freetime because it seems the most like a "regular" diaper- no extra work of stuffing and un-stuffing. I wanted this to be successful, and guessed that if I felt discouraged by the extra "work" of cloth diapering, I wouldn't want to keep up with it. Now that I've got the Freetime down, I'm excited to test some of the other styles/brands.

          Try to get acquainted with a few different options before purchasing any- ask your mama friends, check out what is stocked at BabiesRUs and other baby stores.

2. Timing

Timing is everything, isn't it?

We have lots of friends who started out with cloth diapers from the get go. Oh lordy, had we done that, we would have fast sunk in a heap of newborn shart diapers. Jubes, angelic little thing that she is, pooped sometimes 4-7 times a DAY in her first two months with us. I really cant imagine having lived through that with cloth diapers. Bumgenius diapers are meant for babies 8-35 pounds, but they also make a line of newborn diapers. We knew we would wait to start cloth diapering as we planned to travel with Jubi right after she was born, and guessed correctly that all of our accommodation changes would make cloth diapering too stressful. However, since Jubes was a 6.5 ish pound baby, she wouldn't have been big enough for the diapers we bought anyways.

I'm really glad that we waited, as the amount of diaper changes had dramatically decreased by her third month of life. However, on our first day of cloth diapering, she let mama experience their full glory right away by producing a massive number 2 for her diaper numero uno. =)

Tips: Start when you feel like you can handle it! Some friends started right away and that worked for them. For me, I needed things to be as simple as possible while I dealt with all the other changes. I have heard that some babies get used to one type of diaper or the other (cloth vs. disposable) and switching is difficult, but that was not our experience whatsoever.

3. Laundering

Day one cloth diapering was great. I figured out which snaps to snap her in at. I figured out where to store the clean diapers. We decided on a location to deposit soiled diapers.

And then the next day I realized I needed to wash the diapers, and I suddenly felt much less happy about this whole thing.

But, as is often true, once we got into a routine this wasn't nearly so overwhelming.

Here's what is working for us currently:
1. Place soiled diaper in the dry bag in the diaper pin. (If poopy, rinse first into the toilet. We're lucky because most bathrooms in BKK have a handheld sprayer-you can ask Mark about this feature-he is totally a convert. I'm just happy to have it for the diapers. =) )
2. When needed (but at least every several days) dump diapers + wet bag containing diapers into the washing machine.
3. We usually add a cup or two of hot water as our washing machine isn't connected to a hot water heater.
4. Use cloth diaper friendly detergent. (Currently we're using  Charlie Soap, given to us by a friend who is done cloth diapering, who brought it back from the States).
5. Hang Dry (we don't have a dryer anyways..).

4. Cloth Wipes

We also decided to go ahead and do reusable cloth wipes. We use them just for "number 1" diapers, and still use disposable wipes when we are on the go. I love these wipes! We purchased two packs and 24 wipes has been plenty for us.

There are several different methods for using reusable wipes. We dunk are wipes (well, wipe, it only ever takes one) right before use. The solution we've settled on for now is: 2 cups water, 1 TBS baby shampoo/soap, 1.5 TBS baby oil. I've really loved using these wipes as I dont love the quality of wipes we have found in Thailand. These are so soft and wonderful!

Anyone have any other wipe solutions they've tried and like?

All in all, I really love cloth diapering. Cloth diapers just make so much sense! It's good for the earth, good for the wallet, and good for baby! And the cool, no pressure thing about cloth diapers is that, if it doesn't make sense for a period of time, or a day, or whatever- there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break and using disposables until you're ready to jump back on the cloth diapering wagon!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Some thoughts about some of my thoughts

I feel like I've got a million things to say- so many stories and thoughts and prayers and updates that beg to be written. And I'll have time, I'm sure (I hope) this next year to begin the discipline of writing it all out.

I am hopeful that this new year will bring with it a routine that may be a bit more balanced for me, maybe even a little healing.

And so... with my free few minutes while baby sleeps (not on mama, gasp!) I share with you the routines I'm aiming for in this season.

1. Exercise

These girls over at Tone It Up are where it's at. I a little bit love them and I absolutely love their workouts. I have never seen more change in my body than from incorporating their little workout videos in my daily life. I just did this workout and it has fast become one of my favs. =)

2. Bible Reading

While apart of me misses the old days of thumbing through my well-worn and written in bible (which is TOAST these days because it is leather and has not done well in Tonga and Thailand and..my new bible just doesn't have the same feel to it, ya know? Change is hard.) the reality is I do much better doing something online. So, I'm currently checking out http://shereadstruth.com/. Thumbs up so far!

3. Reading, Reading

Every year ICS has a women's book club. Every year I download the book list, and sometimes even read a book or two...but I haven't made it to an actual meeting in...um, quite a long time. But this year will be different since I am not working and fighting BKK traffic on Monday evenings. =) yay! So, current book club book, "The Expatriates" by Janice Y.K. Lee.

I'm also reading "Growing Strong Daughters" by Lisa Graham McMinn upon suggestion from a smart mama friend.

4. Baby Stuff

I don't know if it is a blessing or a curse to have the wealth of knowledge, opinions, and experiences that us mamas have now with the internet. Google has been both a life saver and a tear inducer ("my baby had a fever of 102 then died the next hour" I mean, really people? Why would you post that?!). Upon pregnancy I downloaded the Baby Center App, which gave me daily updates on my little nugget before her birth, and now gives me all kinds of info as she grows. I love it! From common milestones, play suggestions, common mama fears, etc. It's all there. I highly suggest the app/website: http://www.babycenter.com/

Goals for this year...

1. Cooking

Mark is the cook in our house, though we don't cook much here. I'm hoping to teach myself how to make some dishes and cook something once a week.

2. Investing in friendships

I didn't do a great job of balancing my work with other parts of life these past two years. I could apologize for that (and sometimes I am sorry) and I could hem and haw about all sorts of stuff, but I'm working at giving grace to myself and being at peace with saying there are seasons in this life. And the last two years of my life the season was work. And now I am in a new season (that hopefully teaches me more about balance for any future seasons ;) and it's going to take a village to raise this little girl. =)

3. Writing

We will see...

4. Volunteering

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to stay involved with my kids. Do I pick a few I really like and invest in them? Do I pick a few that just really need...just need everything? Do I pick the single moms? The teenage moms? Do I reach out to some organizations and ask them their suggestions? Do I devote myself to english teaching? to livelihoods? to IDC? I just don't know yet and don't want to bite off more than I can chew. So... I'm waiting to invest long term in anything, while still keeping up with some of my clients, some of my old co-workers, and of course, IDC. Always IDC.

What are some of your routines, especially you mamas out there?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Prayers for Jubilee Way

Years ago I wrote this blog post about our prayer/naming plans for our children. It has been so fun to reflect back on this blog over the last year or so. 

Mark and I did choose a name, which is also our prayer for our daughter. We did, also, write a small prayer which we whispered in Jubilee's ear the hour of her birth.

We also each wrote the following prayers (long, because we both had much to say, and separate, because our writing style is a bit different) a few months before she was born. We shared a portion of these prayers at Jubilee's Child Dedication today at church, and thought it was time to share with all of you, so you may pray this prayer alongside us and over Jubi girl.

Daddy's Prayer

As your precious children, we thank you Father for another precious child. Thank you for entrusting this gift of infinite worth to us and for all the blessings surrounding her birth. Thank you for a loving family and a loving community that welcomes her warmly.

As our daughter is born into this broken world, we pray that she would first come to understand the brokenness of her own heart, and that she would understand the fullness of the Jubilee spirit of your grace. We pray that she would find delight in your love and embrace the gift of reconciliation that is freely offered to her.

We also pray that she would grow to embody your spirit of Jubilee in this world full of hurt, captivity, and poverty. We pray that her very life would proclaim the loud blasts of Jubilee freedom, and that she will be drawn to actively participate in your plans to bring liberation and consolation to this hurting world. May she walk faithfully in the Way of Jesus – the embodiment, instigator, and fulfiller of Jubilee.

Mama's Prayer


Thank you for this baby girl-for the timing and beauty of her arrival. We acknowledge that you created her and know her- we rest in your power as her Maker and your love as her Father. We praise your mighty works and take comfort in knowing before her days on earth began, every moment of her life was laid out and known to you.

Thank you for entrusting this gift to us. Thank you for being such a good Father, whom we can strive to learn from and love like.

We pray that we grow into this huge task of raising our daughter. Thank you for the family and friends who will enrich both our lives and hers in the years to come. We pray that we step deeper into the vulnerability and gift of living alongside others as we begin this new journey.

We pray Jubilee comes to fully know your love and the power of your grace. We pray she is drawn to your redemption ways and learns the joy of surrendering to you at an early age. May she truly delight in your presence, and earnestly seek you.

May our little Jubilee be a mighty voice in bringing your Kingdom come. May she be as a “loud blast” (Lev 25) proclaiming freedom in You for all she comes across. May she usher others into your redemption plans, and actively seek to reconcile man to nature, man to man, and man to You. May she loudly ring of the liberation and restoration that You provide, by (Is 61)

                                                    Preaching good news to the poor,

                                                    Binding up the brokenhearted,

                                                Proclaiming freedom for the captives,

                                                     Comforting all who mourn,

And loudly proclaiming with her words and deeds that you are God with us, active in bringing liberation, consolation, and rest. May she, through you, bring restoration.

May she faithfully walk in your Way- filled with a profound peace, deep joy, and love, love, love so deep and full that it overflows and spills out and leaves a trail straight to you.

Monday, May 16, 2016


We chose a name years ago. I’ve said this before, it’s the transliterated version of one of our student’s name from our time teaching in Tonga. A sweet but wild boys’ boy that I really adored.

When we heard your name and said it aloud, there was no doubt in either of us that that would be your name.
After we became pregnant we started to look more into your name- study deeper the year of Jubilee in the bible.
We knew your name would be our prayer for you and this name is such a mighty prayer. Our dear Jubilee, a loud “ram’s horn” declaring the restoration to be found in Jesus.

And when Mark and I talked about this powerful name, we always spoke of the restoration we hope takes place in your life, and the restoration we pray God uses you to bring about in other’s lives.

Overwhelmed. Dazed. Proud. Confused. Exhausted. Joyful.
I felt all of these emotions when she entered the world.
I think I thought as soon as she arrived I would have this “A-HA” moment. A sudden realization felt deep down in my bones that she’s mine and I’m a mama and all the wisdom of the centuries that comes with that.
But mostly I felt like it was this strange out of body experience (and a little bit of awe, and a whole lot of exhaustion).

On day two I finally had a minute alone with my daughter. I was up and about and scooped her in my arms and sat in a chair. She cried and I fed her. And I then, for the first time, truly bonded with her. My little girl, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. I wept with the joy of such a perfect blessing from a God that must be good.

We brought her home-this is a crazy time. Full of overwhelming emotions and questions and fears and hopes. We had had a hard night so we put on some music and I held her while she slept. And ever so slowly it dawned on me that the first restoration Jubilee has brought is my own. God has given her to me at such a time, and she has truly restored my soul.
I wish I could capture in words the pain in my own heart the last year or so. It has been a deep deep well of swelling sorrows. I have questioned, often, this God I claim to serve. I have wondered if he is all powerful, and even more, if he is really good. It has been a season of tears and accusations and a crying out for justice. I have silently prayed for God’s hand to move, then bitterly questioned when I have not seen it. My mind has held to the things I believe, but my heart has not.

But holding this tiny daughter of mine has given me a glimpse of my Father. I cannot help but cry out in praise (and constant prayer!). I cannot help but weep and acknowledge that He knew years ago when “we” picked this name, that it would be me that needed so much restoration. When I have so often wondered about the timing of this baby, and worried about whether or not to work, etc, God knew my heart.

I am sure I will continue to process and struggle through understanding the realities of the pain in this world. And I am sure there will be some hard times ahead as we all three continue to wade into the painful and beautiful process of bringing His Kingdom to this world… but in Faith, and Hope, and a tenderness to my heart that has been gone for such a long time, I am able to praise what must truly be a good God.

Thank you Jesus, for using my little Jubilee to begin to restore my soul. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"To Jubilee Way"

Forgive us for this broken world
That we have passed along to you.
Our damaged hearts and homes reflect
A tragic mess we can’t undo.
At times, our hope is dashed beneath
The wreckage wrought by hate and fear,
And pride and greed are placed ahead
Of all that we should hold most dear.
But there is comfort, our dear child,
For healing can be found in he
Who delves into this broken mess
To blast the sounds of Jubilee.
Forgiveness is his serenade
That lifts us out of needless strife,
And freedom is proclaimed to those
Whose chains have choked away their life.
We pray that you would hear this tune
Because his healing work begins
When we trace back this world’s deep cracks
To their true source, which lies within.
And then, with all who came before
Who follow in his lowly Way,
We pray that you would join the work
That ushers in redemption day.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Jubilee's Birth Story: Dad's Perspective

I got the email Tuesday at 8:23am, right at the end of 1st Period.

According to my contraction app I'm averaging one every ten minutes since you left for work.... Don't tell anyone or freak out cause I don't know if it will continue to increase, but fyi..  =)

“Don’t freak out.”  Like that was ever going to happen.

I did manage to teach the rest of my classes for the day, wholly distracted, incessantly checking my phone, and calling every chance I got.  When the bell rang at 2:25, I got on my bike and booked it home.

Alissa was a picture of peace and calm when I arrived.  She had done a few loads of laundry and had even graded some quizzes for me.  I was neither peaceful nor calm when I frantically burst in the door, but she assured me that there was no cause for panic.  Her contractions were still spaced far enough apart, and the pain wasn’t too intense.  We ate an early dinner, and she, in typical Alissa fashion, decided to bake some cookies.  But since she had been having contractions for most of the day, we called the hospital around 6:00, and they advised that we make the trip in.

We quickly got our things together, called a taxi, and headed to the hospital.  We left around 7:00, and traffic was still pretty bad.  But, things still didn’t seem all that urgent.  When we arrived after a 45 minute stop-and-go ride, we checked in at the birthing unit, and the nurses checked her dilation and contractions.  To Alissa’s dismay, she was told that she was not dilated even a centimeter, and that most of what she was experiencing probably weren’t even contractions.  The nurses scoffed and sent us home, saying that maybe labor would really kick in in the next day or two.

Frustrated, we got in a taxi to start the journey home.  All the while, Alissa still felt contractions coming on, seemingly stronger than the ones before, and she wondered aloud whether we should just stay in a hotel near the hospital.  But with the nurses knowing chides in our heads, we slumped back home.  Boy, do we wish that we would have trusted Alissa’s gut.  No pun intended.

We got home at 9:30, and Alissa went straight to bed.  Her hope was to try to sleep through some of the contractions and store up her strength.  Without much sense of urgency, I slowly got ready for bed, and got out my computer.  Then, all hell broke loose.

At about 10:30, Alissa shot up out of bed and instinctively ran to the toilet.  While she was scuttling on her way, she yelled out at me to clean something up.  Then, in an ignorant daze, I realize what had happened.  Her water had broken.  I immediately went to the bathroom and reached for some toilet paper.  Understandably annoyed, Alissa yelled, “What are you doing?? Get a towel!”  With my panic level elevating by the second, I grabbed a towel and looked to survey what had really happened.  Without being too graphic, let’s just say that quite a lot of liquid needed to be cleaned up - all over the bed and on the floor all the way to the bathroom.

The next five minutes were among the most stressful of my life.  Alissa was on the toilet and started getting the shakes.  Her contractions immediately began ramping up in intensity.  Totally unable to decide what to prioritize, I began cleaning the floor, ripping the sheets off the bed, ordering another taxi on my phone, making sure we still had everything packed, and calling our doctor to say we were coming back to the hospital.  When the taxi arrived in front of our house, I grabbed our bags, and Alissa grabbed a towel.  We threw the bags in the taxi, Alissa eased her way strategically on top of the towel, and I told our mind-mannered taxi driver in broken Thai: “Samitivej hospital. Baby coming now. Go fast.”

Alissa’s pain continued to elevate, and within a minute into the journey, she exclaimed that she wasn’t sure if she could make it to the hospital.  All I could do was panic and pray, and I managed to send a quick text to our family: “Water broke and we’re heading back now.  Pray we make it please.”  Then, in a scene fit for a movie, Alissa screamed out in periodic pain and I prayed unceasing terrified prayers as we careened through Bangkok’s crowded streets, both of us envisioning the horror of delivering a baby in the backseat of a taxi.  We thanked the Lord when we made it there at 11:15 after a record-breaking 25 minute taxi ride.

Needless to say, we arrived in a manner very different from our calm and unsure visit earlier that evening.  With Alissa in a wheelchair, we burst into the same birthing unit, and were met with startled looks from the same nurses we saw only two hours before.  Alissa got changed, and we quickly got things situated in the labor room.  When the nurse checked Alissa’s dilation once more, the nurse looked up wide-eyed and startledly exclaimed, “Unbelievable!”  She was 5 cm dilated.

For about 30 minutes, Alissa stayed on her feet and changed positions as she closed her eyes and quietly endured the increasingly painful contractions.  I did my best to help, encourage, and send a few scattered texts updating family.  She felt a lot of pain in her back, so the nurses eventually offered her the birthing tub to ease some of the pain.  This did the trick at first, but after awhile, she began to overheat in the hot water.  Then, already wearied and spent, she moved to the low-lying bed.  I applied a cold washcloth to her face and encouraged her to drink water, and an absolute champion of a nurse massaged her lower back.  Her dilation was soon checked once more, and we were pleased to hear that she had jumped to 7 cm.

Then, Alissa hit a wall. While laboring on the bed, she entered the worst of it - the “transition” stage of labor, which is said to be the most painful.  From my perspective, the only thing I can compare it to is an athlete utterly spent at the end of a marathon.  Her energy seemed completely drained, and the contractions were super intense.  She hit 8 cm, but struggled to move beyond this point.  For about two hours, she alternated lying on either side, with her eyes closed, in a meditative, near comatose state.  After awhile, she felt the urge to push, but the doctor encouraged her to fight the urge because she was not fully dilated.  Up until now, Alissa seemed confident in her strength, but she began to doubt herself, pleading with me that she wasn’t sure if she could do it.

Finally around 4:00am, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, our doctor gave her the green light.  We helped her onto her back, and with a remarkably renewed sense of energy, Alissa began to push.  After the first push, the doctors and nurses seemed pleasantly surprised at what they saw, and they began to prep the room for the birth.  Then, after a few rounds of contractions and pushing, we got into a rhythm.  I counted 10 second intervals aloud during each contraction as our doctor, the two nurses, and I implored her to push hard.  After a mere 7 or 8 rounds, the head was visible, and from there, it happened in a veritable instant.  One push.  The head.  Another push.  The shoulders.  A final push. She was out.  A few seconds later, a whimpered crying filled the room.  Jubilee Way had entered the world.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Today I needed a minute. Because our office is a studio it's usually hard to find a break if you need one.

I abruptly got up and walked out- waddled down these oh-so- familiar streets. It's funny that after all this time, my brain still tries to rationalize, compartmentalize sad news. It always surprises me the things that will impact me at this point-hit hard and burrow down deep and lodge there for awhile, as I try to make sense of this broken world.

I walked down the street, passing vendors, apartment complexes, shops, and song tow drivers that I frequent.

I remembered how me and one of my first colleagues joked about what the Thai neighborhood thought of us, when we first started frequenting this area. There's a bench at a sort of gathering place in the neighborhood. Always I met clients there, then followed them to their apartment,spent some time there then came back and waited for my next client to pick me up. We often joked people must wonder the nature of our short and frequent visits with these young men. We got many questions and even more looks those first months.

But now, now they know me. I'm friends with the drivers, the vendors, the 7 11 workers. I know this neighborhood better than my own, and I am known here better than in my own neighborhood. Even as I am walking and reflecting and a little bit sad and shedding a tear, I know this behavior will be seen and discussed amongst this Thai community, and eventually trickle into the gossip of the Somali community that lives here as well. So be it.

I wander towards the mosque, and cut through the short cut to the klong. It's disgusting and smelly but a little bit private. So many memories at this mosque, passing through this mosque. My day for the last two years marked by the call to prayer. Something I will very much miss. I laugh to remember the home we tried to rent by the klong, the many trips to Ali's.   The countless times I piled into the Song tow with smelly teenagers.

I'm not sure if nostalgia puts this new news in perspective in a better or worse way. Only I think of the endlessness of it all. The fights and victories and defeats. And I guess, in the end, how it's all worth it for just a small victory, even if that victory is just that you smiled, patted someone on the back, and cared for them-bore witness to their story, even if in the end there was no justice found, no happy ending.

There is an immense amount of strength in those who stubbornly get up day after day and do this work, despite the reality of it. I have found that strength in me.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A letter, finally penned

I've written many letters to you in my head over the years, an incredible amount over the last 9 months. Sitting on the bus composing away, combing all my thoughts and feelings to find the best words to express what it is I want to say.

But every time I bring pencil to paper (or more oft, fingers to keyboard) I'm at a loss. Where to start?

Should I start with how I'm one of those girls that didn't ever really decide that I would or wouldn't be a mom- I just started mothering one day, and haven't really stopped since. (I'm sure countless would roll their eyes, sigh, and nod their heads...not everybody wants to be mothered.). But we knew, your dad and I, that we wanted children-a big (or small) home with doors wide open and a place that many would call home. We dreamt of a family and have prayed daring and difficult prayers about what our family will look like. And now you are at the door, will arrive at almost any moment. And we are so happy it is you.

But in saying that, I fear I must confess there was a time, a few years back, when I declared I wouldn't choose to mother a daughter. I think because I know what it is to be a girl. Sometimes I am afraid you won't be anything like me-that I will make you roll your eyes and stomp your feet (and well...I'm sure I will), other times I'm terrified that you will be like me- oh what a difficult burden that will be to bear... What an impossibly large thing to imagine- this blessing and responsibility to raise a child in the way she should go. A few years ago, your dad and I were sitting in our candle lit house on our little island at the edge of the world, and as your father read aloud from the Tongan dictionary (yes, he has always been this way-let's you and I make fun of him together) we both suddenly knew who it was we would be waiting for.

When we first said your name, I knew it was right. That we would have this beautiful baby girl and she would hopefully be so much like her father (who is far gentler, more patient, and kind than I) and from me take just a pinch of my passion and spunk (because that's really all you would need). And I've known, and I guess in some seasons, just hoped, that you would come, and that God is preparing for you some amazing things.

I thought I would be the kind of pregnant woman that was ALL about my pregnancy. What I'm eating, how much I'm sleeping-reading the books and taking the classes. I thought I would jump in to it 110%, because, well, I tend to be a 110% type of person. But in some ways I'm so glad that you came in this season. Because a few years ago, I wasn't ready  was less ready to be a mom than now. I was not so sure of myself, not so ...grounded. And I think I would have been ALL ABOUT you, in an unhealthy way, in a way that my sense of purpose and completion would have needed to come from you. I don't want that for you, and I don't want that for me. Maybe I am still not so grounded, but I know me so much more than I did. And I'm so happy to say that you will be loved and adored by me, but I will continue to be more than just "Baby Coop's mother". I hope and pray that you will see this in a positive and inspiring way as you grow older.

When I told your dad that we were (finally!) pregnant, he literally danced and jumped and smiled and screamed around the living room. I just want you to picture your dad doing that for a moment, because it is just so sweet and just so him. I'm pretty sure from Day 1 he called you by name-never doubted you were our baby girl we dreamed up and hoped for. I went along with this but as the time came nearer to hearing the gender from the doctors, I made myself switch to gender neutral names. Not your dad- he knew that he knew. His face was priceless in the doctor's office when we finally got the confirming news- a girl! He mocked my "lack of faith" and has been bursting with the pure joy of you since.

When I learned I was pregnant I tried to become more aware of my days-of my body, my habits, my emotions, my thoughts. The week I found out I was pregnant with you I had a call from a colleague who offered counselling services to the people we served. She had been on the phone with a young woman who was on the roof of her building (holding her infant child) and threatening to jump. As she coached me over the phone about what to say, I walked towards the building and up those steep stairs. I was a bundle of thoughts and feelings- Heart pounding, adrenaline racing, despair of the deepest kind, and fear. And always then and since then I have thought of you- my baby whom I love and am meant to protect. I have tried my best to manage my emotions- the fear and stress and anger, but it has been difficult and I have felt them all the more fully to realize what it is I would do for you, and the things I witness others doing to someone else's babies. Let the world cry out with the injustice of it all.

I have been worried and distracted by this job. And because of that, this is just the first actual written letter to you. Because of that, instead of hanging decorations in your nursery today, I did H's laundry  (because he flies soon and I have all his belongings since his arrest to the detention center). At the end of the day, baby you will not know if all of the pictures were hung and the room was pristine before your arrival or a few weeks later. But I am sorry, all the same, that I carried you through these things I have carried you through, that I have not always had the time to savor every moment of you and this pregnancy, and that maybe some of your perceptions of this world are already skewed a bit dark. We can talk about it all one day-but in the meantime I'm just giving it to God.

You are at the door, will arrive at almost any moment. We are filled with so much joy and anticipation. You have what feels like hundreds of "brothers" and "sisters" waiting to meet you. Not to mention grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so many others who already love you to pieces. We can't wait to meet you, hold you, kiss you, even though we aren't quite sure what we will do with you yet. I guess we will learn together.

With abounding love,

your mama

Friday, January 1, 2016

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bell

Lord Alfred Tennyson1809 - 1892

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Mark shared this poem when he spoke at church a few weeks ago. Reflecting on it again as we prepare for this new year.