Love in the midst of the mess

You are dreading another meal of ramen noodles and canned vegetables, but you know that’s all that’s left in the cupboard, that it’s the best you can offer your son tonight.

You’re thinking about this as you enter the dimly lit child care center to pick him up, with hunger pulling on your stomach, only to see him sitting on a grimy, stained rug. He gazes upward, engrossed in a cartoon, his face stone-still like an icy zombie. You remember that you once asked if the TV was safe — it still looks as if the smallest bump to the cart could make the heavy machine plummet down and crush a child — but the one time you tried to ask about it, you felt like a nuisance, so you never brought it up again.

Before you gather your son into your arms, you notice a child care worker with thinning hair scolding a girl; the girl stares at the dusty floor as tears roll down her cheeks. The scene tightens your throat with discomfort, awkwardness; you ignore this and scoop your son into your loving arms instead.

You don’t like this place; you have a feeling that…

[This is the beginning of my latest column for the online newspaper, Global Sisters Report. Continue reading here.]

Feeding Time at Art Beast Child Development Center Photo Credit: ©Ellen Friedlander
Bubbles at Art Beast Child Development Center Photo Credit: ©Ellen Friedlander

like the flowers

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”      –Mt 6:24-34

One of my greatest sins is to be full of worry.  At times my mind can obsess about all that I am concerned about: people, tasks and upcoming events.  My body stresses and thoughts keep me away from relaxing into the arms of Jesus.

Jesus’ words humble me. It’s not all up to me. I am not in charge. God’s got this. I can trust, and I need to. I can let go and let God handle everything.  Sometimes all I really need to do is show up with a heart full of love and then amazing graces flow.  I’ve experienced this, and it is incredibly awesome.

Yet I have been trained to be responsible.  I need to work hard, be prepared and organized.  I need to set goals and plan for the future. I need to practical and careful.  I train my students in the same ideals now while I wonder if they are developing faith in God’s power.

Certainly there is a certain amount of balance that is healthy and important.  While we work to build the reign of God, we remember over and over that it is not about us; we are very small and God is huge.  When things don’t run smoothly the temptations to worry flow around us.  It can be confusing and overwhelming. At times the challenges can be so extreme and painful that our doubts can stall us on the path of faithfulness. Still, we know that it is important to be faithful in the great times and the ordinary times, so we are in the habit of trusting in the hard times.

Many people I know who have lived through violence and poverty have the strongest faith.

A few years ago I had the profound privilege of working with young adults who were transitioning from the chaos of homelessness to the stability and security of having their own place, savings, a solid job and a good education.  One of the youth was bright and bold, but life had spun her in circles.  While she was a resident in the community she taught me how to work hard and make the world a better place while pausing and trusting in the beauty of life.

“All I wanted since I was a little girl was to stand still and grow like flowers do.  At Tubman, they are passionate about the growth of each individual entering these doors. I can finally say I have a place to stand still and grow.” –Sharniece, Tubman Resident

As we all turn away from worry toward faith in God’s beauty, I hope and pray we can all find a place to stand still and grow like flowers do. Amen.

"standing still" By Julia Walsh, FSPA