what I can’t get out my head these days…
It’s walking through the department store that I know I haven’t completely forgotten.
But I’m petrified I might.
It’s walking past the aisle of towels and dishcloths and tablecloths, looking for those girls of ours who have gone looking for leotards.
And it was the yellow and white plaid dishcloths, stacked and folded, like sheaves of thick papers, that did it.
I had stopped. The last time I had stood in that aisle… We had bought 4 of those yellow dishtowels for Xiomara’s mother.
The Farmer had bought four for me.
Over three thousand kilometers apart, we both wash plates with the same dishcloth.
I reach out and touch the dishcloths. Run my hand across the weave.
It’s the girls who come find me.
Find me standing in the towel aisle, hand on a stack of dishcloths like I’m making a vow on a King James Bible.
One tear slips, carves something out of me.
“Mom?” Hope had whispered it. Shalom had patted my leg. “Mom? Why are you sad?”
I could only choke it out, a barely murmur, each word coming hard. “I… miss … Xiomara.”
I miss the fresh bruising of my heart and I miss the witnessing, the ways the eyes feel when they are seeing for real, and I miss children and volunteers and love and I miss the way her smile curved and opened the lid right off the world. Like we were changing the world.
I miss being so close to help I could hold out my hand.
Shalom quietly strokes mine. Hope fingers the edge of a dishcloth.
How can your heart fuse with a child’s in the course of only thirty minutes? Her eyes. How can you walk around your house feeling like you are missing someone you don’t even know?
How can you keep scratching down words about leaves and thanksgiving meals and pretty plates when there are kids who are starving in a dump today, when there are kids who don’t have plates, never mind candles or flowers or potatoes?
How do you keep peeling the scales off your eyes?
What aisle stocks that answer?
I’m half-hearted brave through the check-out. We buy two pair of leotards. I have no idea if we should. The girls do need them. It’s October. This is Canada. But how many days ago was it that I saw kids who had no shoes, living in a dump in Guatemala. Do we really need leotards? Every time I open my wallet, I twist, conflicted.
My last night in Guatemala, Shaun who had guided us through Guatemala with Compassion International, he had said it across the table to us, and this is what I remember, the Gordian Knot I can’t quite figure out how to slice:
“The world, your community.. even your family — they are going to try to push you back to the middle. North America feels pretty comfortable in the middle. Balance, everyone says. I don’t know what Jesus is going to say to you.. How He might direct your life now…
Just don’t assume God wants you to live in the middle. Be open to the possibility — of something radically different.”
He’d looked around the table at us. I had kept looking up, a futile attempt to keep everything from spilling. “Don’t do anything drastic in the first month. Just pray and keep praying. And then after the first month…”
How long have I been home?
Am I just balancing quite nicely in the middle of my North American teeter totter?
I said it was life-changing. What about my life has changed?
But it nags at me, just this one vision. It’s the widow in the temple.
Didn’t she give of the only mite she had? Not just what she could somehow do without?
I bring 3 boxes of cookies to church. I say I have enough for the whole congregation. I give three boys in the front row all 3 of the boxes. They are now three smiling boys.
I ask the rest of congregation if they are happy and full? They stare blankly. But, I say — There ARE enough cookies for everyone. The boys at the front just have to share. They just have to distribute the cookies.
I look around the sanctuary, make eye contact with Bill Menkveld and Cindy Hayden and Dave Duccomon, and I tell slow them on Compassion Sunday what someone told me after I returned from Guatemala and I had felt it’s sharp edge along the skin, “God gives the world enough of what it needs. He just doesn’t distribute it.”
We will have to share.
We are the ones who will have to do the distributing.
I had written on the way back to the airport, on our way back to our plush lives, “I pray I fight the middle to my last breath.”
What in the world does it take to be radical? Somebody give me that aisle!
Is a life that shares the grace, a life that distributes the gifts He gives — could a radical life be that simple?
After we checkout, the Farmer and the boys meet us girls at the van. Hope has the bag with the leotards.
Shalom explains to the Farmer, “Mom’s sad because she’s missing Xiomara.”
And I nod and the Farmer nods and I am sad for all of us in the middle of the teeter totter, not willing to jump.
Sad for how frogs die in water that seems just middling to warm and how they never notice that the heat’s slowly killing them.
We drive home. That evening, in the dark, all the children sleeping under stars, I wash the dishes.
The water is lukewarm.
I wash off plates with my yellow and white plaid dishcloth.
Will you come with us? My trip with you to Guatemala last year impacted me deep and I pray I never recover. I can never thank you enough for sharing the journey with me, for living the normal radical and sponsoring real kids and real dreams. ( Would you?)
Compassion International has invited The Farmer and I to come together this time — and I’m in turn inviting you to come with us, in prayers and encouragement and radical passion for God’s aisle. Can we all go together? (Please? Have I ever mentioned that I was in counseling as a child for a ridiculous snake phobia? And there are snakes where we are going? ~weak smile~) Please come with us, with Amanda Jones and Big Mama and Boo Mama and Kelly Stamps, the entire Compassion Bloggers team, as we travel to Ecuador, to Quito and then into the secluded tribes in the Amazon rainforest in November— so we can witness it again first hand: How God Comes By Here — when we touch a child with His love and grace — and two lives are forever changed.
Come by Here, a song from the Third World Symphony album, was completed and first played last year on our Compassion Trip to Guatemala — and it encapsulates my prayer for our Compassion Ecuador trip… Maybe the trip begins now, here, with this song? Will you begin the trip with us?
Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.
For this week and two more weeks: … might we explore: The Practice of Faith… What does it look like to believe? How do you practice your faith day to day? How do you share that faith, deepen faith in Christ, live that faith out in the midst of fears? The whole community looks forward to your prayerful reflections stories, ideas….
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