Blood Brothers Discussion

I have the honor of leading the book discussion of Elias Chacour’s Blood Brothers over at SheLoves Magazine today. This is a challenging and thought-provoking book about the conflict in Israel & Palestine. Here’s an excerpt, but click over to read the whole post and join the discussion!

Photo-2017-02-28-10-29-25-PMNaïvely, I have always viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of Jews and Muslims. The descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael. Of course, nothing is as black and white and the conflict over Israel and Palestine impacts many more people than those two particular groups.

Elias Chacour’s memoir, Blood Brothers reminds me again and again that we are bound by much more than religion, political views, and geography. If we are to truly live out the upside down, peacemaking message of Jesus, it does us no good to divide into separate categories.

Chacour brings his own story of belonging to one of those other groups to life. As a Melkite Greek Catholic, Chacour imagines that his family, who had farmed the same area of land in Galilee, may have “eaten bread and fish miraculously multiplied by Jesus’s hand” (33). That is to say, his family have been Christians since the earliest followers of Jesus and they have lived in Palestine longer.

And yet, when the Zionists began claiming the land of Palestine in the 1940’s, Chacour’s family, supporters of their Jewish neighbors and those who wanted to settle in Palestine, were forced to leave and live out their lives as refugees.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about which “side” is the right side. Our neighbors are from Israel; my husband’s family is Jewish; I was raised with the Evangelical ideal that Americans support Israeli Jews without question. And yet, my heart aches for those who were forced to leave their homes and who have lived in exile for generations. I grapple with my belief that we are called to help the refugee, to pursue peace, to turn the other cheek with the complex idea of justice and how that looks for so many opposing sides.

What Chacour reminds me, is that this particular conflict is the work of politics, not of people.

Read the rest and join the discussion over at SheLoves!

Creating Space for Wonder

The other night, after putting the girls to bed, cleaning the kitchen, and shoving the stray toys into the playroom, I settled onto the couch to breathe and relax. Before I even finished my exhale, I heard a rustling upstairs.

IMG_3910Upon investigation, I found Bea peaking through the railings. I thought I heard a door open. I had been praying that God would tell daddy that his little girl misses him. I guess he can’t hear through the ceiling.

Bea, being Bea, seemed more disappointed in our ceiling than in God. She embodies that childlike faith that I have long forgotten – stopping to pray for anything or anyone without hesitation, believing fully that God is waiting to listen to her.

I’m on a planning team at church filled with people who have Advanced Degrees in Theology and Knowing God. We gather every couple months around a table, brainstorming, talking, and wondering about upcoming sermon topics. It’s an invigorating evening and I always leave learning something new. But I also leave wondering why I’m at that table. I’m definitely more on Bea’s end of the spectrum, as far as What I Know About God goes, and I often wonder how my own experience compares at all to those who actually know what the Bible means.

But that’s not why I’m on this team. I’m there because there is a place for me at the table. Because my experiences, though not as profound or as well-researched, still matter. And because our pastors place high value on the voices of our congregation, regardless of Biblical knowledge.

Bea asks a lot of questions about life, about God, about the way the world works. Even Elle’s favorite question right now is, Why??? It can be so tempting to try to find the answers. And there are some easy answers, but most are not.

Even if I do know the answer, I’m learning to respond to the questions with, I wonder.

I wonder if God can hear you through the ceiling?

I wonder why the moon is still visible during the day?

I wonder why that man is asking for money and food?

Sometimes we go home and look up the answer to our questions or after we wonder, I can help supply an answer. But I like starting out with I wonder. It keeps the discovery fresh and alive. It reminds us that our world is full of wonder.

I’m learning that I need to keep that as part of my own faith journey. If, instead of reading the Bible for answers or looking to figure out why God operates a certain way, I’m learning to wonder. Instead of wishing for (or demanding) answers, I’m learning to live in the space of wonder, of discovery, and of grappling with the unknown.

How do you balance answers with wonder? Even if you know the answer, how do you create space for discovery?

Doing What Only I Can Do

Even though I quit my job after Bea was born, I quickly found a new identity about a year later working at an incredible museum. Title-wise, it didn’t get much better. Mom and Museum Educator? Pretty cool.

IMG_3982A few weeks ago, I officially quit this pretty cool job. Life has gotten super busy and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A friend once advised, Do only what you can do. When taking inventory, only I could be wife to Frank and mom to Bea and Elle. But for as much as I loved this job, I knew someone else could do it and do it better.

I confidently made my decision, had a great conversation with my boss, and embraced really being present in this fleeting preschool season.

This past week two small things happened to shake that confidence. One was an offhand comment from a working-mom friend about how much time I have. Another was the response from a stranger who told me that it was cute that I stayed home.

In reflection, I am amazed at how quickly that confidence can be shaken. I know my identity is so much deeper than the job that I hold. I know that the decision we made was the best one for our family. I know that my days are busy and that being a full-time mom is a full-time “job.” And yet, that confidence wavered when my decision was so quickly dismissed.

I think that, no matter which path we embrace; no matter which life choices are best for our families, there will always be moments of hesitation and question. Because none of these choices are The Best. They are the best for us, in this moment.

What are some in-the-moment choices you’ve made that you see being temporary? How do you embrace the season you’re in?

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

What are You Listening To? #trypod

fb_posts_1200x630px_v1-03_custom-e4086d6620fe799b7340101e65506f35aeffa446-s1200
image source: NPR

NPR has declared March the month to Try a Podcast, or #trypod. I’m pretty new to the world of podcasts – most of our car music is geared to my preschool passengers and I just can’t seem to focus on talking while I’m doing chores.

But there are three and a half podcasts I listen to constantly. If not every episode, then most. Because (according to NPR) people listen to podcasts based mostly on recommendations, I thought I’d share and I hope you share yours, too!

Smartest Person in the Room
This is my “half” listen. Laura Tremaine tackles topics such as Hollywood and Religion. I find if I’m interested in the series, I’ll listen to the whole thing. But if I’m not, I just skip it. The nice thing is that the seasons are set up to do just that and as she creates more episodes, there will be more to draw from.

Sorta Awesome
I’ve been listening to Sorta Awesome for almost a year. It’s a fun, breezy, girlfriendy sort of show. I think it satisfies the voyeur in me – I feel like I’m eavesdropping on a fun conversation. Some topics totally resonate, others don’t. I’ve learned that abandoning an episode is ok. But I still look forward to their new ones each Friday.

Popcast
This is another one I’ve learned to abandon if I just don’t connect. I’m not hugely into pop culture, so a lot of the references are lost on me. But the dynamic between Knox and Jamie is wonderful and this is the podcast that, if I need to laugh until I get teary, I’ll turn to. They manage to find the balance between teasing and making fun of people that makes life a little lighter.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text
Now that I’ve finally read (and loved!) the Harry Potter series, I’m also loving all things Potter-realated. This is a beautiful discussion on how to look at a fantasy series aimed at young readers as a sacred text. Each episode focuses on one chapter, so I’m still in the first season. But I savor each episode and always walk away with a new perspective. Caspar and Vanessa make incredible connections and dive deeper into the text and our current culture. I can’t recommend this one highly enough!

Are you into podcasts? What are your favorites?

Spring is Saving My Life

After the winter that barely was, spring is here. Trees are blossoming with bees buzzing around; our backyard fountain is running again and birds are splashing and drinking; our hyacinths have bloomed and our other bulbs are pushing out of the ground. The windows are open. At first, just in the afternoon but now for longer and longer stretches.

SpringI know that we very well could get a blizzard or two in April and even into May, but after such a mild winter, I wonder. For now, I’m enjoying this spring weather. As Leo Tolstoy says in Anna Karenina, “Spring is the time of plans and projects.”

While there is nothing like cleaning the house with all the windows open, I’m more energized by the seasonal projects we look forward to. It’s still too early to actually plant anything in the garden, but we start to dream as we sip gin and tonics outside during nap time. We start to plan our camping trips and what Life After Tax Season will entail.

I love this idea of spring cleaning and planning and projecting. Dreaming about our next literal season as the warm weather and longer days are tangible is an important part of soul care, I think. Taking time to connect our bodies to the seasons, to remember that we are part of nature and in that, recognizing the need to shift our spirits with the seasons.

That’s what I love most about Lent and Eater aligning with springtime and new life. It seems natural to pause and take stock of where I am spiritually as I’m tidying and reorganizing my physical environment.

Just as I find the practice of stopping to take account for what’s saving my life midwinter, I love the practice of remembering that in spring, everything is saving my life. This is a time when I live out all my winter mantras and ideals. This is when life is blooming and I’m excited about our next season – both in decisions our family is making as well as the actual next season of March-June springtime.

So, as ice melts in my glass and I savor an afternoon of dreaming and list-making with Frank, I’m grateful for these spring moments of cleansing and renewal. Of a glimpse into what is to come, even if we do have another blizzard or two waiting.

Has spring come to your part of the world? Do you take time for soul spring cleaning? (And are you an actual spring cleaner?)

Raising Friends

When we first found out we were having two girls, I immediately thought, They’ll be friends!! Even though my brother and I are close and Frank and his sisters are, too, there seems to be something about a same-sex sibling relationship. I’ve always envied people who had sisters – who had a built-in best friend growing up and into adulthood.

IMG_3935A friend and I were recently laughing at that ideal. She and her sister are close in age and are friends. But she said she wouldn’t consider them best friends. Another friend said that she and her sister, who are 9 years apart in age, are still quite close. I suppose it’s more of a personality thing than an age thing.

The past couple months have seemed like a turning point for Bea & Elle’s relationship. After the newborn phase, where Bea was disappointed in Elle’s lack of interaction, to the frustrated She’s messing up my stuff!!!! phase, we’re finally in (somewhat) of a playmate phase.

The two are inseparable. They’ll draw together, mother their dolls together, eat together, read together. Elle can’t wait until Bea is done with school and Bea rushes to her with a bear hug at the end of the morning.

I know we still have many years of fostering friendship with these two. But I hope that these moments are a true glimpse into the future. That, through the tween and teen years and into college and adulthood, they’ll continue to create and share food and perhaps even mother together.

What is your relationship with your sibling like? How do you foster friendship among your kids?

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

Recalibrating Expectations

One of Bea’s favorite books is Good Night, Philadelphia. It’s part of that series of board books that focuses on a city and greets the famous landmarks: Good morning, Museum of Art. Good afternoon, Betsy Ross House and Old Glory. Hello, Reading Terminal Market and cheesesteaks. For a solid year, we read it multiple times per day. Even now that the love has ebbed a bit, I still have it memorized. One of the benefits of knowing it so well is that when we visit Philly, Bea has an idea of what she wants to do on the day we go into the city.

IMG_8964A couple years ago, she really wanted to see The Liberty Bell. We took the train from the suburbs into Reading Terminal Market and walked toward Independence Hall. We walked through modern glass doorways of Independence National Park and through the crowds of middle school students toward the Liberty Bell.

When Bea saw it, she started to cry. It could be that she saw an older boy put in “time out” by one of the park rangers for messing around. Or that she had expectations of ringing it herself. Whatever the reason, we walked around this large, old bell, roped off from small hands and then we were done. Besides the museum and history videos, there wasn’t much else to do with a 3-year-old.

We quickly remedied the problem with a carriage ride around Independence Square and back to Reading Terminal Market for cheesesteaks and ice cream.

I had seen Bea’s type of reaction before, most notably by da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris. Tourists would flock to this portrait expecting a gigantic painting, only to be disappointed by its small scale. I often remind people that few of us have larger-than-life-sized paintings of ourselves in our homes. Why would this be any different?

I think about times when I’ve built up an experience or event to the point that any reality will be disappointing. Whenever I envision the perfect date night or an incredible dinner or even a clean house for more than a minute, I am quickly reminded that I live with other humans and our reality is sweet but far from perfect.

This week’s Lenten theme is expectation and I have been thinking about this tendency in relation to these weeks leading up to Easter. What am I hoping from this Lenten practice? Are my expectations realistic?

And, more importantly, are my expectations within this practice drawing me closer to the redemption of Easter? Because, Lent isn’t about giving something up for the sake of fasting for 40 days. It’s about remembering the celebration; about being mindful that we actually don’t have to earn this grace.

I’ve been learning a lot these past two weeks and yet, I’ve been trying to keep my expectations tempered. I’m remembering that this practice isn’t to change my mind or anyone else’s about politics and those elected. It’s about loving my neighbor and remembering to pray for our government. It can be easy to get bogged down in the details of the exercise, forgetting the ultimate purpose.

So, with another month to go and 30 more politicians to pray for, I’m remembering my own expectations and realigning them with a much larger purpose than any 40 day practice will produce.

How do you keep your expectations realistic? Have you ever been disappointed by something famous?