Sunday, December 28, 2008

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

~ Mary Oliver ~

:Congratulations to Rachel, Cory, Shawna, Beth, Sofia, Trisha & Alissa! Each of you will be receiving a copy of one of the preceding pictures in your January Christmas Card. If you're really bent on have one of each photo to make a complete set please let us know and we'll be sure to meet your every need:

Sunday, December 21, 2008


From our home to yours - Have a joyous Christmas!

- Jake, Jess & Herman (our turtle) -

*This pictures series is actually a set of eight. If you leave a comment under this blog post you have entered yourself in the drawing to win the other two pictures. Therefore, comment at your own risk and know that the more you comment, the higher the chance you have to win all eight!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Power of Proximity
Kirsten Penner Krymusa

Lispa walks into a room like a Maya Angelou poem. Hips swaying, eyes sparkling, large smooth arms picking up scattered toys and books without ever breaking her stride. She repeats my daughters’ names with her lilting Kenyan accent, over and over, her motherly mantra. There’s a quiet dignity to Lispa’s manner. A refusal to hurry. A steady rhythm that beats somewhere below the surface as she walks to the clothesline in her worn blue flip-flops or bends at the waist to scrub the floor.

Lispa works for me. She does my housework, bakes my bread, and occasionally watches my girls when I’m tired or need to run a quick errand. I’ve come to accept the bizarre reality of having a houseworker while I live in Kenya. I make a concerted effort to be a fair employer, to give her a generous wage, to inquire about her family and thank her for her help. But the truth is that when Lispa enters my house each morning, she brings with her an undeniable discomfort. Because although I lead a modest life by any North American standard - no large appliances, no screens on my windows, intermittent power and water - when Lispa walks in the room, I’m rich. Filthy rich.

I tend to bemoan my cramped kitchen and complain when the power goes out while I’m on the computer. I scroll through websites and long for high-tech toys for my 4 month old daughter. I rifle through my t-shirt drawer in despair, dreaming of the convenience of a Canadian shopping mall.

And then Lispa walks in. Lispa, who lives in a one room house with her husband and 3 children. Who irons her two dresses with meticulous care. Who can barely cram all my daughters’ toys into our large toy basket while her children play soccer with a ball of knotted rags.

Maybe there’s an immorality to having someone who is so poor enter right into the middle of all my wealth. But maybe there’s also value in the juxtaposition - a refining that comes with the discomfort. Because if Lispa didn’t work for me, the reality would be the same. I’d still be way too rich. And she’d still be somewhere in a tiny crowded room, way too poor. When I lived in my funky downtown apartment in Canada, washing my own floors and doing my own laundry in the basement laundromat, there were still millions of Lispas in the world trying to scrape by one more day - sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. The difference wasn’t in the disparity, just the proximity.

Whenever Lispa stands in front of my full pantry and asks quietly if I might be able to spare some extra sugar for her family, whenever I drive by the devastating Kiberra slum on a family outing to the giraffe park, whenever I slow down my Subaru for an elderly woman carrying a load of firewood on her back, I remember that things are not right. That ours is a broken and unjust world, and that I do not have the luxury of complacency.

I wonder how I’ll maintain that awareness when I do move back to North America some day. I know all too well how easy it is to exist in a comfortable middle class bubble. If I plan my route through the city carefully, I could probably go weeks without even seeing people poorer than me, let alone actually having a relationship with them. And I think there’s an immorality to that as well, or at least a grave danger. Because those of us who are rich cannot afford to be too comfortable with our wealth - especially those of us who claim to be “little Christs”. I know Jesus had encounters with those in circles of wealth and comfort, but most of the time, he chose to seek out the sick and poor and outcasts. So maybe there’s moral value in proximity with the poor. Maybe Lispa is helping me develop the spiritual discipline of discomfort.

- found on Burnside Writers Collective -
there is something comforting about bread & butter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another cryptic message.

The week has increased in difficulty in some ways, and eased in others. Please be in prayer for the students I work with.

In the advent of these learning curves I have lost sleep and found courage. Such a silly word, makes me think of lions and tiger and bears (Oh My!). It's not a characteristic I have had to summon on a regular basis.

Still, because I am free to accept or refuse this summoning of courage, I will scream I am not able, yell I'm not worthy and consent to the road before me.

Yesterday morning I had a solid cry as part of this experience. Jake held my shaking body and offered me a gift, the tree of life. A beautiful glass pendant of a blossoming tree and placed in gently around my neck.

May the God who created the trees which bring life to us all bring you peace and joy on this day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

it's been a very difficult week for me. amidst the celebration of jake's birthday & acceptance there have been a significant series of events that have summoned into action a part of me i didn't know exist.

unable to paraphrase this experience i leave you with a poem that best puts into words what i'm working through:


‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
~From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VIc

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador; standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The Engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent
God waited.
She was free
to accept or refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

. . .

This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed, Spirit,
suspended, waiting.

She did not cry, "I cannot, I am not worthy,"
nor, "I have not the strength."
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her,
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.

Consent, courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

. . .

Aren't there annunciations
of one sort or another in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride, uncomprehending.
More often those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

. . .

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, 'How can this be?'
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

~Denise Levertov

*thank you Nanette

Friday, December 12, 2008

Since Jake hasn't yet spilled the beans:

Yesterday was not only his birthday but he was also officially accepted into the Advanced Standing nursing program at Loyola University.

Whatta Man.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

What do you do when you have a morning/day where everything goes wrong?

Monday, December 01, 2008

this entry (mostly the comments following) really made me smile today.

it also makes me hungry & creative!

oh - and then there was this.