He sat alone at lunch…

My son started his junior year today at a new school, a city of 3000 masquerading as a school. He walked in with his head held high, despite knowing he would know no-one. His bravery was stunning. Which made the crestfallen yet resolutely hopeful courage that swept across his face as he told me about his day even more heartbreaking.

He sat alone at lunch. My heart breaks a little writing that sentence. He tried so hard to bring up the positives, to find hope, and I thank God for his resilient, faith-filled heart. And, as I take in every hug and request for a cup of tea with one and two-thirds of a teaspoon of sugar, I am so grateful I get to be here for it.

Sometimes our memories so closely mirror our experience as to be indistinguishable. As I eat comfort food with my boy and load up episodes of Survivor to binge together, I recall the girl I was. I remember the feeling of walking into a room filled with strangers, eating alone, pretending to read a book rather than face the friendless corridor. I feel her inside me begging not to be sent back, and I so desperately want to give him an out. Here is the real rub of parenting; he is not me. He has his own journey. He doesn’t need my baggage, and he doesn’t need rescuing. He needs a safe place to rest after a hard day. He gets the thing I didn’t have, and it is healing to my soul.

One of the strange things of being a memoirist is the constancy of the human experience. The moments where whatever I’m writing intrudes upon the present day as if to say, “You thought that this was the past, but here it is!”

Tomorrow, I will drop him off at school with a prayer, a smile, and a Yerba Maté in his hand. Tomorrow, he may need another night of Survivor and cups of tea, but perhaps he won’t. Perhaps, tomorrow he will make a friend, or share a laugh in German class. Perhaps.

Hope is a powerful resilient thing. It springs eternal and will not be denied. My son is hopeful, and so am I.

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Woman of Valor

There are no words to bring her back. There are no numbers to count the weight of her loss. There is no measure of her impact. There is only grief mingled with hope, tears rolling down a face set like flint towards Jesus.

Rachel Held Evans left this life and entered into the next yesterday. Too soon. Too young. I echo my friend Shawn Smucker when I say, “Please give her back! We shall keep asking You!”

Eshet Chayil! You are a Woman of Valor, rest well in the joy of your Saviour, dear one.
( Macki Evans, courtesy of Rachel Held Evans)

I never met Rachel, yet her words have been light in many a dark season. I never heard her speak in person, yet her voice is as real to me as my dearest friend. In her life, and death, she was and is a relentless force of encouragement to press on, to be a Woman of Valor for the sake of others.

Rachel’s impact will pour out on the pages and websites over the coming days, months and years. Her desire to see women rise up into their worth and value combined with her passionate exhortation to the church to be the best version of itself will bear immeasurable fruit, and her legacy will be

Thank you, sweet Sister. Thank you for giving me, and so many others, the courage to speak and write and argue. Thank you for forging a way, for making space at the table and providing companionship on the journey. We are your legacy and we will not forget you.

Rest well, Woman of Valor.

Conversations with an Old Friend.

“Hey, less of the old, if you don’t mind!?”  The shout echoes across the pond.

This holiday season brought me a beautiful gift in the form of 10,000 steps a day with my oldest and dearest friend.  When the Best Friend Ever™ comes to stay and is on a health kick, you walk.  And when friends who live 6,000 miles apart walk, they talk.

Oh, what a balm to my soul those conversations are!

The sweetness of conversation with one who has known me long and hard, through marriages (both), divorce (hers), children (mine) and continental faith shifts (both), is a treasure to me.  There is penetrating insight in that long look that is unmatched by even the deepest friendships of this restless immigrant.  There is weight to words spoken over me in loving compassion by this one who has known me for so long.

Seeing myself through her eyes is Revelation. Her words exhort me to grace and compassion. If you’ve been around me for long, you’ll have noticed that I am long on passion and short on grace – for myself at least; that I am the harshest critic of myself, my inner voice is a cruel, insatiable perfectionist whose standards are stratospheric, and who rarely listens to encouraging words, because “they don’t really know me”.

So, this year instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I am committing to a year of Revelations.  I am digging in. Digging deep. A curiosity has awakened within me to know, to examine, to root out.  I cannot explain how odd this is, I am, by nature, an adventurer, always on the hunt for the new, exciting, and exotic. I am easily bored, and generally not given to introspection. I am a classic extrovert, I gain so much energy and joy from people that the thought of spending time, alone, with my inner self (or selves) is, on the surface, unappealing.  However, framed another way, this is an adventure, this is the ultimate challenge, to discover the depths of my self, to stretch my intellect, to be able to serve greatly without fear of being “found out”.

There are many areas I have begun to dip my toe into;

  • Reflecting on the programming I internalised as a child is more relevant than ever as I guide my sons from adolescence to adulthood.
  • Acknowledging and purging the cultural mores I have picked up from 10 years of life in the Evangelical Church of the American South become heartbreakingly urgent as I navigate this new landscape of #metoo and #timesup.
  • Dealing with the codependency and psychic armour I developed to survive boarding school, but which has sown bad seeds and reaped a worse harvest in my life as an adult.

 

“Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?”
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I hope you will come on this journey with me, not just as a spectator but as a participant in your own year of discovery.  If there is one thing universally true, it is that change starts within.  If we want to be agents of restoration to a broken, divided and hurting world, must we not first be those very agents to our own broken, divided and hurting hearts.

Let’s go!  Joy awaits!

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