“The ordinary activities I find most compatible with contemplation are walking, baking bread, and doing laundry.” – Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries
A delicious rain fell off and on all day yesterday and and again, last night starting a little before the children’s bedtime. The kind of rain that gives everything a grayish, warm glow, and begs for blankets, books, and sleep. The twins, even little Oz went down so easily – another rare gift when they almost tuck themselves in and only jabber a few stanzas and syllables at each other before that deep quiet that can only mean the heavy blanket of slumber.
Andy had already crawled into bed by the time I left the twins room and I thought I would stay up but I felt my body going limp before I could even entertain the thought of doing something productive. I wiggled up next to him burying myself in blankets – a chill had set in from the rain – and stared at my phone for a few minutes before I blacked out. Woke up for a few moments when Andy got up at 10, and then again at 3. This time the baskets of unfolded laundry, and the allure of silence (besides the occasional barking of some unknown dog – seriously, who’s dog is out at 3 am?!?!?) called to me, and like the prophet-boy Samuel I stand and say, “Here I am!” wondering what or who is really calling me this late at night. Except, instead of going back to bed right away and letting another voice beckon me to sleep again, I’ll sit with the to-do lists, chores, and the barking dog.
My mind wanders to conversations lately, and I’m thinking about the Dominican Republic and Haiti. We spent numerous summers there – Andy and I with groups from our churches, and then visits during the year to keep touch with the schools and communities through the Foundation for Peace.
There are days – those long days of paint and Legos and crushed Cheerios, lately. I would take the noise and dirt, the precarious and treacherous driving, ice cold showers, and sleeping on a thin mattress in a concrete bunker over the first world luxuries of air conditioning, hot water, and domesticated dogs and cats. Reading and hearing stories about others who are lately travelling to Haiti or Rwanda or Kenya makes me … jealous. Which, is weird.
After the twins were born I couldn’t think of anything that I would rather not do than do a “mission trip,” or a “vision trip,” to a Third World country. It sounded exhausting, like I’m-too-old-for-this-shit tiring. But, I also still have a tension with these short-term mission trips – it’s consumeristic to go somewhere for 10 days and play at building a shelter or water cistern knowing that the work we do would take a day for the locals to do on their own, and anyway, at the end of it all, we get to leave the Third World behind. I remember hearing stories about how after we left a work site for the day that the local workers stayed longer to correct our shoddy construction. We toil and suffer … for a few days, and it seems hugely insensitive to be a tourist in someone’s poverty.
But my ecclesiology and pneumatology, my understanding of church, and the global church, and God, make me believe that there is something priceless about the brief but Holy-Spirit overlap of souls and hands in work together – when not only oceans are crossed but the boundaries of class, privilege, race, and language are undone and become threads that tie us together. There’s something so eternal and beautiful about the experience, and yes, I can’t help but consume it, it feeds me, I need it. It’s not a justification for the complicated layers of inequalities and realities of major, major difference … but something in me clings to the bigger hope that even in our bumbling, imperfect, prideful ways we are making a change.
For now, though, I suppose I’ll keep sending checks. Sigh. Someday…
Getting sleepy again. Still haven’t folded the laundry. Early calls in the morning. Goodbye party for dear friends in the late afternoon. But, the quiet is good. It feeds me in its own way, too. I seem to have more of these lately – the interrupted sleep or routine (but, do I actually have a reliable schedule???) and these moments of thinking and struggling and wondering…and it’s a gift. A strange gift…Never thought that sleeplessness would be a gift.