Tuesday, February 19, 2013

when the dust settles and you find your cup empty

i spend my weeks alternating between being a working mom and a stay-at-home mom.  
mondays are one of my stay-at-home days.

i love mondays.
in the early moments when the house is mine alone i gobble up truth...stuffing it in every little pocket of my mind and heart so that there would be enough to get me through the day.
then the kids and i plow straight through our to-do list before lunch time.
ever since i decided to do this hybrid homeschool thing i have been so excited about my two little patches of fertile ground that i am sowing seeds of knowledge into.  
yesterday, after all the stories were enthusiastically read and the letters carefully written, i felt full.  the fullness that comes from filling hours with filling minds.  i gave myself an imaginary pat on the back for the job well done as i tucked my youngest in for his nap.

i took my full cup and sat down with lucy for a special afternoon project...a letter to christine - our friend in burkina faso whom we sponsor through compassion.  we began by reading the letter we recently received from her.  i read the words of a 4 year old dictated to someone with pen in hand and simultaneously took dictation from my own 4 year old as we penned the response.  there was one part of christine's letter in particular that struck me.
as lucy wondered aloud whether or not christine would like the minnie mouse sticker she was using and considered what princesses were her favorite, i re-read the inquiry...
   there is dust here and i would like to know if there is also dust there.

suddenly my cup felt like it had a leak in it.

i showed lucy the dusty, rocky ground that christine was standing on in the picture we have on our refrigerator...
...the picture tucked just underneath the picture of our family on a beach vacation last year.
the fullness began to seep out of my cup.

we wondered together if one of the simple box-like structures in the background was christine's house.  i explained that she probably had to share a room with the rest of her family and they may or may not have beds.  we examined her tiny feet with well-worn sandals and considered how dirty they must be walking that dusty ground all the time.  i glanced at the a basket filled with dozens of kids shoes across the room from us.  lucy's face crumpled in some combination of confusion and sadness.    she continued peeling off stickers and carefully placing them for her african friend.
i looked out into our grassy front yard that extends to the sidewalk and then to the paved road beyond.  as far as my eyes could see there was grass and pavement.
   no, christine, we don't have much dust here.
the long gravel driveway at my family's farm was the best example i could give lucy of the terrain that christine is accustomed to.  but even there the ground is covered mostly in green and feels soft and cool to our bare feet.

my cup continued it's slow drain.

i got up to get something from the kitchen and a familiar face on the counter caught my eye.
i remembered the first time i met pierre in haiti.  he had been left at the orphanage...an almost lifeless body.  he laid expressionless in a portable crib that sat on the grounds of mission of hope...the dusty grounds.  less than two years later we would return to see him flash that smile that could almost blind you.  a bright light shining in that dust-filled place.

as lucy finished her masterpiece i sat down at my computer to find a window back to that place...to those people.  i read ann's response to her first trip down the dusty roads that lead to pierre and the others.  as her words fell into me... 

more holes sprung open in my cup.  the drain was steady now.

these thoughts she shared...i share them too...
what if the american dream is a false religion that preaches God alone isn't good enough?
i look down at this girl's shoulders wracked with a hallowed repentance, her sobs lost in hymns, in Him, and 
when did north american comfort-induced numbness ever lament like this?
{ann voskamp}

i fill my north american life with so many things.  many of them good things.  many of them eternal things.  the time i spent with my children yesterday teaching letters and singing scripture was good...part of it probably even had eternal value.  but somehow when i am faced with the condition of this broken world outside of my idyllic suburban walls i find myself empty...

...but what surfaces from the depths of my soul is not what you might expect.  there is a grief that drains the life right out of me.  it is not so much grief over the condition of others and how little i have done to relieve that.  it is more a deep sadness over my own condition and what we might be missing...here...where the dust has settled and we have covered it up with perfectly manicured lawns and thousands of miles of highways and custom built homes.

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.  genesis 2:7

from dust we came and to dust we shall return.  those first full breaths of life were breathed into what was taken from the bare ground.  from that dust we were made alive.  

   have we traveled so far from that original dusty ground that we don't know real life?  
   are we living this allusion that 'we've come so far' is a good thing when really it is a dying thing?
   do we pridefully think we have made something of ourselves forgetting that we came from nothing?  forgetting our true position before His breath gave meaning to the nothing?

we are a week into lent.  a time of self-denial.  a time for us to become less so that He can become more.  my own selfish heart has engaged this tension between living a 'good' american life and living a 'God' life.  

i'm wrestling with how to reconcile those contrasting pictures on my refrigerator.  

i certainly don't have it figured out but i would love to hear your thoughts and have you join me later this week when i share the practical steps i am choosing these 40 days...