Thursday, July 21, 2016

Abiding on Middle Places


The word “abide” is stalking me.
It keeps coming up in Scripture, in the book I am reading (The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning), and other places.
I have not been very good at abiding this year. There was a time I thought of myself as a contemplative. Last week, a friend sent me an invitation to a “day away” event at a labyrinth, because people know how I love labyrinths. But when was the last time I walked one?
Turning the word over and over in my head, feeling its curves against my tongue, its texture on my teeth, I have wondered, “How does one abide?” Or, more accurately, how does one return to abiding?
I have come up with a few answers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Searching on Middle Places

Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.”  ― Haruki Murakami
What am I searching for?
I thought I knew.
I have pursued book publication for so many years, it has become a part of my daily existence. Who am I? A writer with an agent, dreaming of a book deal, pounding out novel after novel, hoping this will be “the one.”
It sounds more hopeless than it is.
It isn’t hopeless, but it started to feel that way this year. Publication processes move like an ice age, so my slow inching toward my dream is not a sign I am a bad writer or on the wrong road. However, when the hopelessness sets in, I was forced to ask myself that first question again. What am I searching for?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Honduras: July 9



Today, after doing a couple of touristy things (visiting two Catholic churches, eating pupusas and plantains in a street café), we rode to the base of the hill where Diamanté is located. Last year, most of my trip was spent in Diamanté, but this year I have not visited.

We pulled up by a small cinderblock building. On top of the building are two white plastic tanks. This is the well. There is a pump and someone has to turn on the pump and refill the tanks multiple times during the week. Various missionaries and one Honduran pastor handle that.

As soon as we got out of the truck, a man in the field behind us began smiling and waving. He walked across the road and spoke with Tim. Jamie and I stretched our legs and looked up toward Diamanté, the village where I built a memory house in 2015. We chatted about how things have changed from last year and when we may go back to see that house. Tim unlocked the building and went inside.

Then there were two little boys, niños, beside us. Their mothers stood nearby, holding buckets, waiting to draw water from the well and carry it back up the mountain to their homes. I went back to the truck and grabbed a plastic bag one of the other mission groups left behind for us. I pulled out a tennis ball and held it up to one of the boys, saying, “Pelota?”

The boy smiled. I handed a tennis ball to him and one to his friend. Jamie started up a game of catch. More children appeared with more mothers and a few fathers. I gave out all of the tennis balls, one Frisbee, and a bag of toy dinosaurs. I snapped photos while Jamie told one boy to throw the ball, “Tira lo.”

We laughed as the kids missed the balls again and again and finally started trying to catch with their feet. In America, we play some form of catch almost from birth. In Honduras, they play soccer instead. If we’d had a ball to kick, those boys would’ve showed us up. Instead, we were asking them to use their hands, stretching them out of their comfort zones.

Then the tanks were full and there was water.

Water poured from above, overflowing the plastic containers, raining down on us. The women laughed, scrambling to grab buckets and catch the falling water.

I asked Tim how to say “Water from Heaven.”

Agua del paraíso…

Agua del cielo…

As the water poured, I snapped pictures. The women grinned at my camera and laughed with me. The children shouted, ran, threw the ball and giggled when it hit someone or bounced into the tall grass nearby.

“Listo?” Jamie asked the kids.

“¡Sí!” a little boy cried, shrieking with joy.

My heart was fuller than the tanks above the well. My mind drifted to the church family growing back home, The Well @ Lewisburg.

This is why we chose to call our new church The Well. Because when the water is flowing, when joy is falling from heaven, people come. Community forms. Language matters little, because thirst and happiness are experiences universal.

I wiped drops of water from my glasses, and I prayed for drops of joy to be flung far and wide, here in Honduras from the well at Diamanté and back home in Olive Branch from the Well at Lewisburg.

Today, may you be thirsty. And may you drink.

May you be filled. And may you overflow.






Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Honduras: July 4


From my journal on July 4, 2016

We're building a house at the bottom edge of the city dump. I just helped nail down the floor boards. The fourth wall is going up. Next, the roof. A chainsaw will slice through wood - madera - to open up one window and one door. From the window, this family can look toward a mountain view, green grass growing tall.

Behind their home, the only view is trash - basura. Piles of trash, mounds dotted with vultures and mangy dogs.



When we arrived, the homeowner spoke to me. My limited Spanish served me well. He is so grateful to God for this home. He has a son named Josue and a wife named Anna. Anna is pregnant, tiny baby bump under green and yellow floral. Vestido verde y amarillo flores. She smiles. Her husband tells me they had another child. That child died. I have to ask someone later, someone who knows this family, "Did I hear that correctly?"

I wish I'd misunderstood, but I didn't.

The smell here isn't as bad as we expected. This afternoon, as I write, escribo, the smell is either gone or I am used to it. I wish I could sprinkle the boards of this house with lavender oil, plant sweet-smelling flowers along the path, make even the air beautiful for Anna, mourning a child, raising a child, expecting new life at year's end.

What strikes me as I sit here is not what we have done, but what we cannot do. Systemic classism, poverty inescapable, a world that includes living at the edge of the city dump.

All I can do today is slip on my gloves, pick up my hammer, and build.

Construyo.



Monday, July 4, 2016

Honduras: July 2 & 3


On Saturday, we went to the market. I spent a lot of time pointing at fruits and vegetables (frutas y verduras) and repeating their Spanish labels, asking Josue if I got them right. After the market, we went to Mi Esperanza to organize the food into buckets. Then we loaded up the trucks and the bus and drove to Nuevo Tiempo to deliver the food.

That's where the day changed. We had a to wait on the mayor before we could pass out the food. There was a lot of standing around and then walking here and there. I stayed with a group of other adults, and we mostly observed VBS and checked out the house being built nearby. There was some political debate between the mayor and our people, but the food did eventually get delivered. By the time we came back to the hotel, I was more tired than I had been the day before.

Yesterday was Sunday, a rest day on this trip. We went to Mi Esperanza for some shopping after breakfast, grabbed lunch at Wendy's (I got my banana soda) and then headed to Valle de Angeles, a touristy place. When it was time to leave, the buses were stuck in the lot. Our guys had to literally pick up cars and move them so we could leave. It was crazy. Always an adventure in Honduras...

We ate at El Gordo's last night, and I love their cheesy bean dip. However, I realized fast that I had reached my limit for extroverting. So I skipped evening worship and spent an hour reading in my silent hotel room while the other 3 occupants were with our group. Then I got to sleep early and felt a lot better today.

I will post about today tomorrow. I'm ready for dinner now. ;)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Speaking Up on Middle Places


“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”  — Anne Frank
Over spring break, I went with my sons to South Carolina to visit my parents. At the end of our week, three of my aunts drove in from three different states. These are my mother’s sisters, and they have been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember.
It was a mostly good visit. We sat around telling stories, and I always love hearing about my mom before she was my mom. They told how some cousins scared her in the graveyard, and she fainted. The cousins were so afraid Mama would tell on them, they waited on her hand and foot for a month.
It’s hard to imagine my mother helping with a séance in the graveyard at night (most of their stories involve graveyards, because we are from eastern Kentucky, where every house has its own cemetery). She grew up to be my hard-working, penny-pinching, bluegrass-singing, quilt-quilting Mama, and I’d be lucky to be half the woman she is.
Unfortunately, it is an election year, so the conversation eventually turned to which candidate everyone is voting for. That’s when I had to start biting my tongue. I won’t tell you whom my aunts liked and didn’t like, but I will tell you, we didn’t agree on any of them.
I bit my tongue so often it’s amazing I didn’t come home with a bloody chin, but I digress.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Honduras 2016, July 1



After being awake more than 36 hours, I slept well last night. We hiked up a mountain to build today. We were building a house in memory of my friend's father. It rained off and on, but the temperature was great. I was able to steal a few moments to journal, so I will just type up what I wrote...

From Heather's Journal, July 1

I'm sitting high on a mountainside, backpacks piled beside me, the taste of honey on my tongue. Below me, teen girls from Mississippi blow bubbles with Honduran children. The language they share is play - jugando. To my right, a home takes shape. The air buzzes with chainsaws and my heart drumbeats with hammers, no rhythm save hope.

Neighbors hauled pizza* and soda up this steep mountain. They wanted to thank us with food. It's a heavy meal for the work day, but their eyes were beautiful as they gave us this meal. In a moment pepperoni is made holy. A small skinny dog feasted on the remains our communion, bubbly Coke pure wine inside my body.

There are cheers as a door opens. The woman had an accident. Half her body is scarred from fire. We are nailing her happiness together, opening a door to new dreams, framing a window from which she'll look forward, plan tomorrow. She is beautiful, speaking joy over us, "¡Yo contento!" 

God bless her. Please bless her bigger than we can


* I wanted to add a note to tell you all pizza is not a normal part of a build. The mayor of this community bought the pizzas. He was very excited about the houses our groups built today. Normally, we eat what we carry up the mountain. My regular lunch today included turkey jerky, a handful of BBQ sunflower seeds, and a couple of honey straws.





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