Monthly Archives: April 2015

When Waiting Becomes Hard

Everyone is so excited. Friends and family are giddy for us and for the arrival of our long awaited baby.

Bubbling over with joy, they swamp Francesco and I with eager questions. “Have you heard anything yet?” “How far is the process?” “Do you have any idea when baby is coming?”

I know their hearts. I know they are impatient for us. They know how much we want baby to come home, and so, as we wait, we are surrounded by a host of loved ones who can’t wait for the happy news.

“It’s only been two months”, I say. “We were warned that this period would be difficult because of the silence.” And because I’m overwhelmed by how excited everyone is for me, I show them, or tell them about, the baby stuff we have already, inviting them to continue on this journey with us, to continue to be excited for us.

But it’s getting hard now, and it’s a “hard” I’m struggling to articulate.

It’s not like the time when I was not sure whether I’d ever be a mom. That waiting was a hollow one, a time when I was too afraid to hope, a time when I squashed any emotion related to the emptiness of my womb and my arms. Then I waited for a change of heart, for us both to say yes to adoption.

No. This time the waiting is different. This time my husband wears around his neck the reminder that we are expectant parents. This time round, the cupboards are filling with baby clothes, baby accessories, baby bedding bought not only by me, but by family who are SO excited for little one to arrive.

This time the waiting is full. Full of loved ones who cannot contain their joy for us. Full of grandparents who are eagerly awaiting their grandchild to arrive. Full of plans for a nursery. Full of plans for a baby shower that promises to be the baby shower of the year (thanks to party planners of note!).

This time the waiting is heavily pregnant with faith, full of assurance of a baby deeply hoped for, full of love for a baby we have not yet met (my adoption paraphrase of Hebrews 11:1).

It is this hope and love for a baby we have not yet met that makes the waiting harder with each day that passes, that makes my arms heavy with the emptiness.

I know a baby is coming. I know that the baby that God has chosen for us is being prepared for us. And yet, this knowing doesn’t make the waiting easy.

Control-freak me really struggles with the fact that there is absolutely nothing that I can do to speed up this process. And so, once again, I find that my only recourse for any kind of peace of mind is SURRENDER.

Once again I hear God say to me, “Let the heaviness go. Lean in to me. Stop doubting yourself. Stop worrying about whether your profile is not right. Trust me. I want this baby for you as much as what you want baby.”

As I scrolled through Facebook yesterday, I came across Ann Voskamp, who prayed,

… so it’s a messed up little blue planet spinning here, Lord,
and honestly, there’s just a whole mess of us struggling & suffering
with grief we don’t know how to put words around,
with relationships that we don’t know how to put arms around,
with failures that we don’t how to put hope around…
And frankly, we’re struggling real hard here to believe it, though we know it’s true:
There is no soul growth without change & no change without surrender…
And You cup our faces real close tonight and nod:
“Surrender yourself to Me… wait patiently for Me…. You may want this cup of suffering taken away — but trust Me. Want My Will more than yours… ” (Psalm 37:7 GWT, Mark 14:36 NLT)
And we nod & look into You & murmur back our true surrender: “Lord, if it most works things out to remove this suffering, please, please do. But if it most fulfills Your purpose in my life or another’s, please, please do not take it away — just be with us & carry us through… ”
We are the Brave who will Brazenly Trust & Believe Big Things:
Suffering quietly begs us to surrender —
so we can win a greater wisdom, a deeper strength, a closer intimacy.
And in our courageous surrender — all we want is to win more of You.

‪#‎HonestPrayersForTheBrave (7 April 2015)

I’m not there yet. i can feel that I have not yet surrendered the heaviness. I still check my phone anxiously everyday, just to make sure I haven’t missed the call from our social worker.

But I’m working on it. I’m working on surrendering.

And in the meantime, I’ll pray,

“Baby, I can’t wait to meet you. I haven’t seen you, but I already love you so much. Come quickly. Mommy and daddy are praying for you, and excitedly waiting for you.”

The Silence of the Dark

Today is a dark day.

This is the day after their rabbi was crucified, the day after his body was laid in a tomb by his secret disciples, the darkest day in their lives.

This is the day after they saw the light of the world go out, extinguished by powers far stronger than they had imagined.

This day is the day after hope died.

A day of hopelessness, helplessness.

Silence.

I imagine the disciples huddled in dark spaces, bereft of the company of the One they loved deeply, the One for whom they left behind everything to follow, the One who gave them a glimpse of God’s kingdom. And in those dark spaces, all that filled their hearts was silence. The silence of unknowing.

I think about the families of the young people who lost their lives in the terrorist attack at Garissa University, how quiet their homes must feel now after the light of their children’s lives were so awfully extinguished.

I think about the loved ones of the young man who succumbed to his injuries incurred from a motorbike accident.

I think about the family of the young girl who lost the fight to the tumour on her brain.

There is a silence about death that is unlike any other silence. It is a silence of emptiness, a silence that now envelopes the spaces inside us that was once filled by a presence.

I wanted to honour this day with silence. I wanted to be in spaces, where I could enter deeply into the quiet, and so I asked a friend if we could go walking, because I believed that the places where she walked would be such a place.

And it was. There is something deeply spiritual about walking in through a forested mountain and hearing the soft gently sound of water streaming from the summit. The silence was gentle, full. Not the empty silence that I imagine the disciples or the grieving families are experiencing, but a silence that was filled with mystery, with a sense of presence that was unexplainable today.

Even the quiet, intermittent conversations that my friend and I shared today did not disturb the silence that seemed to envelope me as we slowly ascended the mountain.

I stood in awe at the mountains that surrounded us, at the tapestry of forest that boasted varying shades of green, and the surprise of colour that would await us as we rounded a bend. And when we stopped to rest so that I could catch my breath, splashes of colour would draw a startled, excited cry from me, and I would eagerly go closer to marvel at the beauty that was so easy to miss had I just continued on. With every step, I felt that sense of presence growing, gently filling the silence of the forest.

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And then we arrived at the waterfall. I was spellbound as water trickled down the side of the mountain like strings of tiny sparkling crystals. I walked into the stream of water and allowed it to splash on my face, reviving and refreshing me.

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I then took stock of my surroundings and saw that my friend was sitting on a giant tree that had toppled over in storm more than a year ago. And that is when the presence made itself fully known.

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It was resurrection.

As I looked at the dead tree, I saw signs of life bursting from the fallen trunk. It was in the silence of the forest that I encountered the reminder that death may remain for a time, but it will not be the final word. It was in the silence of that place that I encountered a deep sense of God’s presence, and the promise that death is not the end of the story.

The church today has the benefit of the knowledge of resurrection, and so it is sometimes hard to imagine what this day must have been like for those early disciples who thought they had lost their reason for life and living. But the experience of those disciples are echoed in the pain and trauma of the families in Kenya, and all other families who are grieving the loss of loved ones through senseless death.

We must remain with them. We must enter intentionally into the silence of the dark and wait there with them. Because if we do that, we too will find ourselves rounding the dark bends of life, slowly becoming aware of a presence filling that silence, and being overtaken by surprise and wonder at splashes of colour, beauty, and hope that comes when resurrection makes itself known.

Which dark spaces are you inhabiting today? What experiences of silence?

Keep walking fellow traveller. The light is coming.

The Journey to Belong

I scrolled through the photos of the gathering on Facebook. Smiling faces. Arms thrown around each other’s shoulders. It was my high school 20th reunion. Everyone looked so happy, as if they were having the time of their lives. And I wasn’t there. Emotional memories flooded in. Back then, I always felt just on the outside of friendship circles, desperately wanting to belong.

Two months later, a different gathering’s photographs filled my Facebook feed. Again, I found myself looking at photographs of smiling faces, of arms thrown around each other’s shoulders. But this time, in these photos, I was one of the smiling faces, and my shoulders were draped with the arms of beloved friends-who-are-family…

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This post first appeared on SheLovesMagazine.com in January 2015. Click on this link if you are interested in my reflections on how I moved from being on the margins to belonging to amazing communities.

I am reposting it on my blog so that it reflects in my archives 🙂

This Friday is a Good day to Lament

Grief threatens to consume

as the life a 17 year old slips away

at the hands of a brain tumour.

There was nothing they could do.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?

 

Horror and shock and anger and pain

comes in waves

as they tried to flee the bullets

of the men who invaded Garissa University.

Some got away safely

Others did not.

A nation in shock at the loss of young lives.

My God, my God why have you forsaken us?

 

Young lifeblood

Spilled on the tar

a smashed motorbike lies to the side

as a young man’s life slips away.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken him?

 

People dying of hunger

Countless lives lost in civil war

Preventable diseases ravaging impoverished communities

Men, women and child raped, violated

Rampant corruption that drains millions our of government coffers

Women and children trafficked for someone else’s pleasure

Disempowered communities helpless in the face of oppressive empires.

A world that is that crying constantly

Writhing in agony,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?

 

Two thousand years ago

A man hangs on a cross

blood drips from his head

his back is torn in shreds.

He lifted the heads of his people

and filled their hearts with hope

With his works and his words.

He threatened an empire that ruled with fear and force,

when he showed his people a kingdom

characterised by shalom.

But now he hangs,

the work he began left incomplete,

unfinished,

and in the depth of his pain he cries,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.

 

The light of their lives faded before their eyes,

their hope for the coming of God’s kingdom

extinguished on the Roman cross.

They would not have thought that

that Friday was good.

It would not have been experienced

as Good Friday.

They would have been overwhelmed with grief,

with fear for the future,

with despair at the loss of the hope that burgeoned bright within them.

They too would have thought

My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?

 

To fully enter this day

we must choose to stay

with the horror

the despair

the pain

the grief.

 

We must choose to cry out in pain

and lament the sense of an absent God.

To do so would be an act of true solidarity

with Jesus’ early followers

who had no Sunday in view

who could only see the horror of the cross before them.

To do so would be an act of solidarity

with those who are in the depth of pain and despair today

in the face of dreadful death that came too soon.

 

In the face of disease,

road accidents,

terrorist attacks,

we honour the victims and their families

by not rushing towards Sunday

but by staying at the foot of the cross today,

a place where there seems to be no hope,

a place of injustice and despair,

a place of crying out in pain,

a place where we lament together,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…

 

On an album entitled “Garden”, by The Liturgists,

Amena Brown cries,

Maybe I shouldn’t question you.
Maybe I shouldn’t doubt you, but sometimes I do
sometimes life and tragedy and grief make it
difficult to believe you
I want to
but sometimes it’s hard to
so, where are you now?

 

And Michael Gungor sings,

Repulsed and empty in my soul
Revolted by the blatant lack of God
The torture and the pain I can’t explain
My heart cries

Oh my God, where are you?
Oh my God, where are you?
Oh my God, my God, my God

 

And so, with them, we lament.

 

Because this Friday is a Good day to Lament…

 

Will you enter with me in lament today?

What would you add to the list of laments? What pain is on your heart that you need to utter?

Created in the Image of a Dangerous God

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I walked into my lecturer’s classroom because I desperately needed to speak to him. I was rattled. Badly.

Why?

When I began my theological studies, I believed I knew and understood God. God felt predictable. As long as I followed the formula of fervent prayer and childlike faith, this God would respond “appropriately.” And yet, God had not responded as I so desperately needed or expected. My womb was still closed, my father’s drinking was still unmanageable, we were still struggling financially.

Was I not praying fervently enough? Was my faith not deep enough? Then one of the readings in my Theology classes, challenged my ideas of God and blew the idea of a predictable God out the window. It effectively yanked my understanding of God out from under my feet and left me feeling uncomfortable, anxious and displaced.

Those feelings led me to my lecturer’s classroom. Instinct told me he would know what to say to calm my churning insides.

“That reading you prescribed last year is still messing with my head!” I told him. “What am I supposed to do with a wild, unpredictable, dangerous God?” I practically shouted, levelling these words in staccato bursts…

This post was first published at SheLovesMagazine.com. It was my first attempt at sharing my theological reflections in the public space. It was terrifying, but liberating. If you would like to read about my understanding of God as a wild, dangerous God, click on this link.

I am reposting this on my blog so that it appears in my archives 🙂

colouredness: a disclaimer and an invitation

When I wrote “A coloured kid: a child of the inbetween”, I hoped to get some response, but I was not prepared for the many shares and more responses than I expected. I was completely blown away by how my poem was received, and after days of chewing on it, reflecting on it, chatting with friends about it, and then accepting a dare from Idelette at SheLovesMagazine, in her post “I Triple Dog Dare you”, I decided I needed to respond.

Firstly, I would like to thank all those who shared my post and those who sent comments that encouraged me – I felt affirmed and heard. I felt SEEN. Your support has given me courage to continue engaging in this space.

I also appreciate those whose comments challenged me. You forced me to think about my motives for writing the post, and you engaged me in ways that are helping me grow in my understanding of “colouredness”. I am particularly grateful to Connector, who shared an amazing list of articles and a video, entitled “I’m not Black, I’m Coloured” that I found really informative, but also affirming.

Secondly, I thought it might be helpful for some people to understand the context of my poem, and here I will give a brief explanation that will also include an invitation.

The Context:

In 2013, I attended a conference in Uganda, an Amahoro Africa Gathering, where we explored the topic “Politics and the Kingdom of God”. Each country, on the African continent, that attended the conference was invited to share about the political landscape of their country and how their faith intersected with the political realm.

One of the amusing conversations had by some of the South African team were around the question regarding the racial classification of the coloured members of the team. Our fellow delegates struggled to understand that a “coloured” was not a child produced from one white and one black parent, but that both parents were also coloured. Some then requested a conversation with our delegation to learn more about the history of South Africa.

As I and another South African tried to answer questions around the origin of our people, a horrible realization dawned on me: I did not actually know, and the answers I was providing felt more like me passing on information that I had heard in by-the-way conversations, rather than actual facts.

Then, later that same day, a fellow South African, stopped me, grabbed by arms, and with intensity shining in her eyes whispered, “I am SO sorry for what my people did to your people.” What was most surprising for me was the shocking onslaught of grief that surfaced from somewhere within me. It stunned me because I had no idea what those emotions were about. This same friend also made the observation that whenever I mentioned the coloured community, I spoke about “them”, and not “us”, an observation that filled me with shame because I realized that I had not actually identified with my people.

Fast forward to another Amahoro Africa Gathering, this time held in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2014. In the bus travelling towards Goma from Kigali Rwanda, a friend was shocked that I did not know that those in South Africa who bore the surnames of the months of the year were descendants of slaves brought to South Africa by the Dutch East India Company when the Cape Colony was being established. These slaves were given the surname of the month in which their slave owners acquired them. Again, a realization that I knew next to nothing about the history of my people.

And this began my search for information about the origins of the coloured people of South Africa, a quest to learn about my community’s history. This search has led me to intentionally engaging people, asking them about their stories, probing their memories of South Africa during apartheid, in an attempt to develop a picture of who my people are, and where we come from.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk entitled “The danger of a single story” has taught me much of what I need to remember as I continue on this journey to understanding my people. In this video, she says,

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.

I am learning that I need to be critical concerning the stories of the origins of my people. I need to engage with the motives of those who communicate certain perspectives to discern whether their version is inclusive of many different perspectives or is an attempt to only promote one perspective.

She also says,

The single story creates stereotypes,and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.

There are many stories that stereotype the various peoples found in South Africa, and I am being challenged not to see people through these lenses, but to allow my interaction with them, and my intentional engagement with them, to instead create a picture of who they are.

She says,

I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult.

I am learning is that to reduce the stories to only one perspective is to rob the coloured community of the beauty of their complexity as a people. We are not a homogenous people, with only one set of experiences and one set of stories. Our backgrounds, our experiences, are diverse, and we need to honour that diversity rather than silence the voices who share stories different to our own.

And she says,

Stories matter. Many stories matter.Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

Herein, then, lies my invitation…

The Invitation:

I value any CONSTRUCTIVE engagement, whether you agree and/or affirm what I write and whether you disagree and/or correct with my perspectives. I do not know all the answers. I do not have all the information. I do not know everything. I want to learn, and engaging with people who know stuff and those who are on a similar journey enables me to do so.

Intimating that my perspective is wrong effectively negates my experiences and those whose stories I have heard and share and silences not only me, but others whose stories are different to your own. Please try not to do so. I want to engage in dialogue with others. As i extend the courtesy to hear you, I would like the courtesy of being heard, and I want us to continue to converse without having either party feel invalidated or ashamed of her/his perspectives, thoughts and experiences.

Final comments:

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned a dare by my friend on SheLovesMagazine.com. Click on this link if you would like to read Idelette’s post, and maybe even take her up on her challenge 🙂

As a result of her post, I accepted the dare and this is what I am committing to for the next three months:

#dare2bdangerous

#dare2bdangerous #dangerousdollars

You can tell from my expression that this was a daunting moment. Cue accelerated-heart-rate, metallic-taste-in-mouth fear and anxiety and second guessing, and then pushing through and making what could be the hardest decision EVER.

I will be writing about what I am learning about coloured identity in the months to come and am hoping to engage with others who are knowledgeable about the subject and with those who are on a similar journey as I am. I will also be writing more about my experiences of the adoption process thus far.

So, are you on a similar journey? Are you exploring coloured identity, or have you explored this topic? If so, I would love to hear about it and to learn from you. Looking forward to hearing from you.