Welcome to my Kitchen
This is my life as a mother with faith in Christ and global concerns and the interaction of all three. My mission is to prepare my children to be global citizens in bite sized chunks. Join me in the conversations.
There are times of insomnia, while I will myself to sleep, that my mind searches for moments of utter rest. Imagining places I’ve never been or experienced are not as peaceful to me as recalling with mind and body those snippets of memory I’ve lived…
Hours following the completion of a big event or project
Day 3 or 4 of a vacation
9:30am on a day with an empty schedule
Post – birth in a hospital bed
Moments I have felt spacious. Tranquil. At rest.
Why are they so few? And how do we purposefully carve out more?
to be kind to our self
to hear and see beneath the clutter
to experience the spiritual blessing of Sabbath… a right-ness with self, God, others, and the world
In an effort to rediscover my voice, I have picked up Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way again. I remember working through it a decade ago and recall those days as feeling fully alive.
We were in Turkey then, leading younger grads, and I hosted people in my home constantly. I strived to cook elaborate meals from Turkish ingredients, recreate beauty for our holidays in the absence of store-bought decor, and craft a space for the women of care and vulnerability. That season was one of the most fully-purposed I have ever felt in life and ministry.
Somehow, in unison, my soul dried up with my creativity.
When I noticed it, my husband’s had also. And so, we left Turkey to begin a season of tending the soil, watering and replenishing, studying a different way of growing and producing life. I am ready to harvest.
But to do so requires a spacious soul. And that demands discipline. Or, at the very least, intention.
So I avoid. Get distracted. Work on my lists first.
Julia Cameron suggests I might be afraid. She says, “Recognize this resistance as a fear of intimacy– self- intimacy.”
And I know. She is right. I do not fear what I might find, I fear what I won’t.
I fear an absence of any creativity at all.
I fear that when I silence the chatter, I won’t hear anything.
But my soul remembers and it is the memory that keeps inching upward, refusing its dormancy.
Be yourself, your own person. Go against the flow. Stand up for what you believe. Cultural values, right? Haven’t I espoused these cliches to each of my kids at one point?
But why do we usually suffer for doing this very thing?
I am in the midst of wanting to make an against-the-flow decision about the kids, prepared to suffer, but finding it so difficult to make!
It’s not the first time. We’ve made other unpopular decisions for the sake of what we deemed best for our kids, our family. Like breaking up our son’s relationship. Uh uh. Want advice on that one? Call me. Like making same son suffer 2 years of a “barbie flip phone” as two teachers referred to it, before we upgraded. And, refusing Halo or Modern Warfare or Call of Duty. Oh, and only allowing PBS until recently! I know, it’s torture here at our house.
This season we have entered the competitive sport decision and I have to confess, it is making me crazy.
I have a problem spending as much on soccer as we will on braces.
I have a problem requiring so much time on one activity for one child to the exclusion of all else.
I have a problem asking my 10 year old to decide what her sport is going to be- for ever.
Because we aren’t going to over schedule her. We aren’t going to juggle 3 or 4 or (gasp!) 5 activities at the same time for one kid!
We value our kids’ sanity, our family dinners, an occasional weekend in the mountains, and have far too many other financial demands and desires of where our money might go. Workout uniforms for soccer do not rank high on that list.
We’re talking about my writing club kid. The one we gave singing lessons to for her birthday. Same kid who burst into tears watching her sister’s first gymnastics lesson because “she has always wanted to be a gymnast in the Olympics!” The girl who started basketball this winter and is signed up for volleyball this summer.
And you think I dabble?
I’m supposed to expect her to know now, at this age, that she is so passionate about soccer that it is worth our investment of time and money to see her dream become a reality? To decide at this age that we’re shooting for a college scholarship?
I am confident there are kids who do know. I see families who are soccer families, music families, baseball families and they live into a shared passion with intensity and focus. I get that and it’s easier to understand the investment of time and money for such a passion.
But for all the other 10 year olds who are still discovering themselves, are they going to be left behind in all sports because they didn’t become competitive when all their peers did? By choosing to take our time in becoming intense, are we saying goodbye to soccer?
I really really want to make a stand on this one. What will the kids learn by our choosing less? Can we involve them in the financial conversation – where else we might spend that money? Might they appreciate our decision to go against the flow?
Do we have the courage to be different and then purposefully live it out? Fill the space of time and money with intentionality?
Honestly, I don’t know. Living cross-culturally is something I know all too well. It is hard and wearisome. And would be so much easier were just a few parents to join us in saying enough is enough.
Because it is enough, isn’t it?, to fill our afternoons and weekends year round with kid activities, making younger and younger advanced, elite, competitive athletes, spending more and more money instead of giving it away…
It is enough, isn’t it?
photo credit: doalittlegood.org
There are other great resources on the global issue… academic texts such as Sex Trafficking, memoirs like God in a Brothel or Somaly Mam’s Road of Lost Innocence, fiction works such as Sold or Priceless, and broad overviews like David Batstone’s Not for Sale and Kevin Bales Ending Slavery: How we free today’s slaves. I have read them all.
But I have longed for a book like Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim‘s Refuse to do Nothing: Finding your power to abolish modern-day slavery. Their’s is an easily digestible and tangible primer on human trafficking for the justice-aware woman wondering what she can do.
I appreciate the way they handle the face of local trafficking- Asian Massage businesses, strip clubs, and underage prostituted girls. But Moore and Yim also spend time on the various ways modern day slavery infiltrates our everyday lives from how to approach conflict minerals in our electronics to child labor in our chocolate. Each chapter contains doable action steps and convicting points of reflection.
The book concludes with an encouragement of our power to end this atrocity, paralleling the ways in which women abolitionists of the 19th century tackled slavery. I think this is the point at which so many women, especially Moms or retired activists, feel hindered. What can I do? Refuse to do nothing! This book will not let you get off the hook, make excuses, or feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. You will conclude with a plethora of achievable ideas and options to somehow work into the reality of your roles and responsibilities.
No legislative power is vested in us; we can do nothing to overthrow the system, even if we wished to do so. To this I reply, I know you do not make the laws, but I also know you are the wives and mothers, the sisters and daughters of those who do; and if you really suppose you can do nothing to overthrow slavery, you are greatly mistaken. You can do much in every way: four things I will name. 1st. you can read on this subject. 2d. You can pray over this subject. 3d. You can speak on this subject. 4th. You can act on this subject. I have not placed reading before praying because I regard it more important, but because, in order to pray aright, we must understand what we are praying for.
Angelina Grimke (1836) Appeal to Christian Women of the South (Refuse to do Nothing, p. 170)
If you have felt paralyzed by the darkness and evil of human trafficking, wondering what you could possibly do you in your corner of the world, you can begin by picking up this book. You can refuse to do nothing. Start now. Start here.
Today’s mail was splayed across our table after my 6 year old proudly retrieved it from the mailbox and proceeded to tear open every envelope. We were flipping through the Valpak when I saw a photo I took last summer for an outdoor living business. Minutes later my other daughter was quoting the Google business coupon offers for two of my ventures and asked, “Mom, what’s the difference between A Face to Reframe and Beth Bruno Photography?” The World Vision letter was read next and unfortunately featured a photo of a malnourished African child: my son began recanting previous tirades I’ve made about ethical photography.
What tangible proof of the fragmentation of my passions! My poor children.
While this morning I ushered a teammate into my dining room, excusing the outdoor cushion sewing project and muttering something about getting bored with myself if I weren’t doing a variety of things, this afternoon I feel cluttered.
In my soul.
Cluttered and fragmented?
There are days I feel purposed. Purposed for the life I lead and clear about my vision.
There are days I feel scattered and unable to decipher the thoughts swirling around up there, craving focus.
Writing. For instance. Or any creative endeavor, requires a vision. And I wonder, what makes a writer? One who enjoys playing with words the way, as a photographer, I play with light? But as a capturer of light, I have a vision for the image I am framing.
Mustn’t I have a vision for what the words will become?
My writer-daughter flew into the kitchen earlier, breathlessly demanding lined paper. “I must write!” she declared. About what, I ask. Wolves. There is a story that has to come out. A topic. A word-vision.
And I wonder, today, who am I? Writer? Photographer? Activist?
As a new member of Redbud Writer’s Guild, I am choosing discipline in one of these various passions- the work of crafting a vision for writing that has focus and purpose, routine and structure. It is time to stop dabbling through “variety” and create word-visions.
How about you? Surely you share my feelings of being cluttered and fragmented. Have you found clarity in your purpose?
We are all an amalgamation of our hobbies, passions, roles and responsibilities. Sometimes we are anonymously attending to mundane tasks, feeling unseen, unnoticed (dying hair with henna.) On other, more invigorating days we are, as my youngest calls me, a “Grown-up Photographer Spy.”
Grown-up Photographer Spy.
This from the adventures of last week when I found myself responding to a vague somewhat ominous phone call, informing my family at dinner that I was, uh, going out, and would be back, um, later. Hours later my husband would receive the text: going shopping, tell you more tonight. I was buying Walmart out of pajamas and flip flops.
The next morning we participated in a local law enforcement operation thought to involve human trafficking.
In the strip malls I frequent!
But where do you put a group of women whose “home” has been seized, whose documents are questionable, and who may or may not want our help? Of the few shelters in our state designed for women over 18 coming out of the sex industry, none could receive an emergency placement. Several others are almost open for minor girls. Domestic Violence shelters require the women to indicate fear of physical harm from their living situation. Would “our victims” indicate fear? Would they pass the residential facilities’ entry processes?
Is any victim of sex trafficking even coherent in the first 48 hours of being rescued?
Here are some thoughts on what we determined is lacking in our community and some suggestions for you in yours:
1. There need to be “safe homes” of community (church) members who are trained, ready, and able to receive emergency short term placements for victims. Even if our victims had been minors and taken into State custody, are any foster placements trained to handle sex trafficked kids? In our case, these women were over 18 and needed an emergency, safe and secure home to stay in the first few days of PTSD while it was determined what exactly they even wanted. Does your community have such homes?
2. Asian Massage businesses are not all fronts for brothels. However, if you would like to learn more about their methodology, please read this article on Polaris Project’s website. I have since learned that our taxes cover police investigation into civil disturbances and citizen concerns. I wonder how many citizens reported the massage businesses before police began investigating further. If you notice suspect behavior in your city, this is a first step. If you wonder about a business, sit outside in your car at various times of day and note if the customers are primarily men. There is your answer.
3. Pray over these places! A few nights ago I sat in a different car with a different group of women near an “Oriental Massage” next to a truck stop. We prayed for the women working there, for the trucker-customers, and for the Christian truckers’ witness and light to be stronger than the darkness. Visit Truckers Against Trafficking to learn more. I learned that our nearest truck stop has been trained to recognize sex trafficking on their property!
4. If you are interested in doing something in your community, please find out what is happening first, before you create something new. We must collaborate with one another- churches, law enforcement, service providers, educators- if we wish to see the end of human trafficking. Perhaps you will identify a gap and knowledgeably step in to address it. Start with your statewide victim assistance organization or contact Polaris Project or your local FBI office to find out what exists near you.
Our team provided emergency comfort bags to the two women recovered from the sting. We put them in a hotel as our only emergency option and went to work to find long term placements. The next day we returned with meal cards and hoped to learn more of their story and needs, but they had already left the hotel and never returned. With great sadness I wonder where all the other unaccounted women are, I wonder the story of “our two,” and I wonder if they had been put in a safe home with a caring couple if they would have stayed.
We are learning. Without warning, but following much prayer, we were launched from awareness to action. How humbling!
Mom, is your spy thingy over? Ella asks. (Dare I tell her I sense it has just begun?)
The search for the remaining Boston suspect continues…
my mind still lingers on yesterday’s anniversary of the martyrdom of three co-workers in Turkey 6 years ago…
but if I’m honest, I’ll tell you that I sip my green smoothie thinking about the henna experiment of last week.
I am FULLY aware that this is a first world problem. My henna dye fiasco. It’s the truth folks. I am distracted by the results. But stay tuned for my current real-world-problem, ’cause I have those too. Let’s not hide the complexity and multiplicity of the layers of our lives, right?
To begin, you’ll recall that I am conflicted by the choices we have to eat and live healthy. In this vein, I bought an all natural henna based hair dye to replace my normal $6.79 chemical choice. It took me an entire week to muster the courage to use it and I have to say it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done to my body:
It makes a frightening green paste that smells so bad my son nearly choked taking these pictures. And, while I had tested my skin sensitivity (alarming enough to read as #1 in the directions!) and about 20 strands of hair, I was still afraid to leave it on too long. Suffice it to say, this was the messiest process imaginable!
Results: it seemed to get darker over time, finally stopping the next morning at a shade which indeed covered the gray, but failed to cover the previous color in the same shade. So, now I have a strip of darker color where my gray had been and a crusty area that won’t wash out, almost like it is burned.
The verdict is out, but hair dye might be added to my category of things I have accepted just might kill me one day.
It speaks to what I’m concluding in this whole agonizing health quest. We make daily choices which are weighed against other commodities- time, relationships, memory-making, and finances. Each of these are relative to our own lives. I have a son who has begged me to give him wheat and is starting to enjoy being elsewhere because of what they’ll feed him! I have kids who opt out of “Vanilla Bean Scones” at Starbucks because they know from experience it MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE BEANS IN IT (can we say PTSD?)
Their enjoyment of our home and family, dinner time and playful times when we “cheated” are so much more important to me than the risk of eating wheat, or animal products, or non-organic, or from something caged.
I have chosen to relax.
Yesterday I ordered pizza delivery for our unexpected snow day (I have been making homemade pizza for 5 years!) But I’m not giving up learning about things our bodies need and crave, nutritional elements I believe could radically reverse numerous conditions which are growing prevalent in our nation. And, I have to remain committed to a pure supply chain so as not to knowingly buy food at the expense of others.
But can we do so with sanity? Embracing our humanity, our non-perfect-ness? And recognize our balance of life’s commodities will most probably look different than hers, and his. It’s okay. Let’s relax.