Sunday, December 06, 2009


A friend commented today that although she knows I love my job, she also can tell that it weighs heavily on me. She can tell that I am juggling a LOT of balls and am sometimes overwhelmed by it all. And it is true, I do feel the weight of it, even as I try very hard to share the load with Christ Jesus. It is not all mine, Lord. It is not all mine.

And I am even juggling too many balls at church. Today, for example, I facilitated Lectio Divina, lit the Advent candles during the service, read the 2nd lesson, did healing prayer in the Messiah Chapel during communion and had 3 conversations about stewardship during coffee hour. Yesterday I clipped greenery in the pouring rain for two hours so we could use the greens to decorate the church. On Friday afternoon, I rushed Noah through rush hour traffic to get him to Grace for a field trip. And tonight have to go back to Grace again to pick him up from the youth group.

It was a weekend that saw very little in the way of rest and renewal... and that is an issue since I am expending so much energy at my work during the week. I really (really) need some down time. That is absolutely clear to me.

I need to take my dog for a walk. Alone.

Listen Handel's Messiah.

Light some smelly nice candles.

Schedule absolutely NOTHING on my day off.

Make a giant pot of soup to eat all week so I don't have to cook every day.

Read scripture. (Suggestions welcome)

Investigate a silent retreat of some sort. Maybe it is time to visit St. Margret's in Boston.

Pray to Jesus that he give me the strength and courage and perseverance to carry on.

On a happy note: Last year a friend came up to healing prayer one Sunday because he was scheduled for carpel tunnel surgery on his wrists. We prayed over him, laid hands on him and sent him on his way. When he went to the surgeon for the pre-op exam, the surgeon was surprised to discover that he no longer needed it.

Praise God. Thank you, Lord, for the miracle of prayer.

Amen and amen.

God inside

I have been lucky enough to meet people who radiate God's love. You can feel it when you are near them.

When I meet people like that I want to pull up a chair and sit for awhile,

Basking in the flow of God love energy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thoughts on the Trinitiy

Some snippets from an ongoing email conversation with a friend:

I am a trinitarian through and through. Frankly, I never really understood Unitarian theology very clearly. It is something about God choosing a guy named Jesus and elevating him to semi-deity status.

To me, that is just not scriptural. John clearly states that the Word was God, was with God, was made flesh and dwelt among us. And that the Word existed before the beginning of time. Also, I don't think there is a place in Unitarian theology for the Holy Spirit. Being something of a charismatic, that just doesn't work for me.

I really don't understand the theology well. And I realize that Jesus himself did not refer to himself on equal par with the Father. But the trinity has been a joyful discovery for me. When I finally became a Christian and began to realize that God himself walked among us, it
changed things for me. I just love the incarnation thing, I guess. I love the spirit thing and the creator thing, too, come to think of it.

To model oneself on the life of Jesus is a fine thing to do, but isn't actually possible to achieve without a supernatural sanctification process going on too. To me, wanting to be a good person isn't enough to overcome our natural tendency to be assholes. I am not sure whether we are born with original sin... or are just subject to inevitable sin, but either way, it seems like there is something in our natures that draws us into separation from God. And while we can do things to try and mitigate that, I think that without God's help, we are incapable of true 'goodness'.

Whether one believes in a supernatural sanctification process is almost beside the point. A life lived in Christ is a life lived in Christ. It is the result of Christ's action in the world even if you don't necessarily recognize it as such.

I believe that where goodness exists, it is necessarily an action of Christ, whether it is recognized or not.

How about you, dear readers.... any thoughts on the trinity? Post them in the comments!

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Jesus prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner....

I breathe this prayer in and out when I am agitated or depressed and the wave of Peace washes over me. Thank you, Jesus, for this breath prayer, for this body prayer, for this heart prayer.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Paper bag

I feel, sometimes, like I am trying to carry too many groceries in a bag that is a little tattered. There are holes. The top is frayed. Stuff pokes out.

And not pretty stuff, either. Not the baguettes and a bottle of wine. Not fruit and cheese.

Nope. What slips out of my ratty old bag is a half eaten bologna sandwich and a banana peel.

(What in God's name is she going on about, you ask.)

I am carrying too much sometimes. Too much at work. Too much in my family. Too much in my church, even. Just too much stuff. And most of it is high quality, good stuff. But what comes tumbling out of my bag when the seams begin to pull apart is the darkness. The isolation. The frustration, the exhaustion.

At least, that is what pours out when you ask me to put the bag down, empty the contents on the table and begin to try and sort through it all.

This morning, I almost couldn't fit it all back inside.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Read James 1

Right now. I'll wait.



Don't you agree that that first chapter is enough for, say, a lifetime of work? I joked in Bible study that I need to put the whole chapter, maybe the whole book, on my fridge.

Thank you, Beloved, for the book of James.

It speaks volumes to me, today.

I want to sell all that I own and give it to the poor. I want to apologize to my husband for speaking out in anger this morning. I want to love my neighbor as myself.

I want to honor you, Lord, not just in word, but in thought and deed as well.

In Jesus' name.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Praise God

I planned to go back to bed this morning, to catch up on some sleep before my long, late shift at work, but couldn't because I was too excited about things.

Pray and fast.

Fast and pray.

Pray ceaselessly.


And then prayers get answered in ways you could never, ever, predict.

Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. Isaiah 65:17

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The 50 million

I was talking to a fellow about CareNet-RI.

"I am pro-abortion" He said.

I didn't respond.

"I was around before Roe v. Wade. People died because of illegal abortions." He continued.

People have died since Roe v. Wade, too, I thought to myself.

50 million of them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apple Cranberry Pie

Here's the pie recipe that won Emmett and me third place in the Ledge Farm CSA pie contest today:


3 cups white flour, sifted. (We forgot to sift, but no harm done apparently)
2/3 cup lard, cubed
1/3 cup sweet butter, cubed
a generous pinch of salt
9 T ice water

Place flour, salt, butter and lard into the cuisinart and pulse for a couple of seconds until the butter and lard are pea sized and evenly distributed through the flour. Add 9 tablespoons of ice water through the tube and pulse just until the dough begins to form. Empty onto a piece of cling wrap and form into a ball. Wrap and stick in the fridge to chill.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


5 or 6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced.
1 cup cranberries
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
the zest of about a half lemon
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1 t salt

Mix everything in a bowl. Taste. Yum!

Take pie dough out of the fridge and cut into 2 parts, with one part being a bit bigger. Roll that part out on a floured board while the other piece goes back in the fridge. Line a pie plate and dump the fruit on top. Roll out the top crust and place on the pie. Trim edges then crimp with a fork dipped in flour. Put in the oven and back 1 hour until done.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Wood, Skin, Iron

Gentle tree

A drum shell,

A chair,

A cross.

The hide of a goat becomes a wineskin, a drum head, a lash.

Iron, from deep in the earth

Like a root,

a sword, a ring

or the nails that held you up, Lord.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Africa stories

Today, Africa was on my mind.

I listened to the music I recorded while I was there. Immediately I was brought back to that evening on the balcony, with Sidy and Maze and Yacouba and the rest. Maze wearing his yellow shirt and playing his jaunty new, yellow trimmed drum. I could see the bats and smell the night air of Bamako.

My memories of Mali will always be bittersweet for me, I think, now that Maze is dead. It has been 5 months since he died and I am still caught by surprise by grief.

I am dreaming of red dust and prayer trees. I am dreaming of homemade wooden benches and brightly colored tessolets. I hear the sound of the call to prayer and it brings me home, back, there.

As a young adult, I thought my adopted culture was Japanese. The structure and formality and hierarchy beckoned. The control. And the seething emotion just under the surface.

But no. Not Japan. Not formality. In the drum rhythms there is an intricacy and complexity, but it isn't stiff and formal. It is wild, it swings, it beckons and draws you near and if you let it, it seeps into you and animates you like nothing else every will.

I danced to the sabar the other night. I couldn't find the rhythm. It was an otherworldly sound. But the drummer invited me to dance with him and I closed my eyes and let his drum speak to my limbs, my core, my soul. I just gave my body over to the sound of his stick and hand slapping the surface of the drum, whack, and I moved, whack, and my arms flailed wild, whack, and then it was over and I went back to dance on the sidelines.

I have no fear anymore. No fear that I look like a fool or that I can't dance as well as an African. I have no fear. I have learned that from the drum, I think.

And the queens, the Jeli women, in their stunning dresses and big head wraps and their beautiful kind words to me. When they tell me I am family, I believe them, though I don't know their names or how they are connected. Yet, we are family. Yes. I believe it.

And God, who is so big he can hold us all in his love. God, who speaks to me in the sound of the drum and the flight of a giant fruit bat and the song of the call to prayer and the red dusty leaves of the prayer tree.... God is in the midst of it all.

Africa haunted me today.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Out on a limb

Oh, wait,

I am there.

I have stepped out on a limb.

(Can you pray for me, please?)

Fear has left for the night. The door swings closed behind him.

Because Christ has entered the house
And will sit with me for awhile.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I need to remember

in the midst of the busy-ness, to pray. I need to pray to God right now.

Lord. I am sometimes afraid of this path you have called me to walk. I am afraid. Please, Lord, please help me turn that fear over to you. I am not brave, but I am willing. I am not strong, but I am obedient. I am not courageous, but I want to do your will in all things. Is that enough, Lord? Is it enough for me to want to do your will? Do you, then, fill in the blanks? Do you hold my hand in the dark places?

Lord, I wish I were brave for you. I wish I were strong for you. I wish, Lord, that I wasn't afraid.

But I will do it anyway, Lord. I will walk on this path anyway... despite my fears.

Friday, August 14, 2009

In the groove

You know when you feel like you are moving along and suddenly realize that everything is falling into place in an uncanny way? Weird coincidences start happening. Delightful little moments when things come together effortlessly?

Jung called it synchronicity. New age folks might say that they are in harmony with the Universe. For Christians, it is sense that you are being blessed by God and he is dropping little breadcrumbs to keep you on the path.

At CareNet, lately, the breadcrumbs have been falling like Manna. Every day there is some new, wonderful, example of the Holy Spirit joyfully playing with us.


On our new Client Service's manager's first day, she was driving to work and noticed a car on a flat bed tow truck in front of her. The license plate was an unusual woman's name. A few minutes later, she came in and discovered that her first client had that same name.

While searching for property for CareNet, my agent and I drove by a beautiful huge victorian house on Broad Street and I said 'That is exactly the kind of place I am looking for for CareNet." The next day my agent found out that the owner of the victorian was listing with her company to lease office space.

There have been dozens of examples of this kind of thing over the last few weeks. At the office, we call them 'God sightings'. They make us feel like we are in the groove. In harmony with the Universe. Blessed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


The Chinese have a dish called 1000 year old eggs. They take a duck or chicken egg, wrap it in clay with lime and ash and bury it in the ground. After awhile, the egg basically cooks from the chemical reaction to the coating. You wash it off, break it open and have a kind of pickled egg that has a totally unique flavor. It doesn't really take 1000 years. Maybe a few weeks. Or months. But it is a long time.

I feel a little like I have aged a 1000 years in the last couple of weeks. Something has shifted since I started my new job. The job is intense... in a way that nothing I have ever done has been. And not in a bad way. In the way that requires us to strip away all our defenses and get right to the core of ourselves. We all sort of feel like we have to do this because the nature of the job is so, well, real. The women who come to see us are real. The interactions between the employees. The reality of what we are doing is never lost on us. We feel a sense of humble gratitude to be actively bringing about the Kingdom every day, even as we are fully aware that it is, indeed, a cross to bear. And bear it we do. We work together beautifully, honestly, gratefully. We start every day with prayer. We stop to pray in the midst of the busy moments. We cling, literally cling, to God.

We feel a sense of the enormity of what is at stake. We respect it. But together we try very hard not to slip into fear. That is where our faith comes together. That is where we bolster each other up. We each, in the last few weeks, have had moments of fear and even despair. But we have been allowed those moments and are supported and lifted by each other's faith every day.

What an amazing experience it is to work in an environment like that. I have never been so grateful for a job in my life. I work with spiritual giants, I am telling you. It is an incredible privilege.

And even when it gets hard, which it has and will, I am fully aware that, like the egg, there is treasure inside.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Yeah, I am still here.

And I am doing great, actually. Tired most of the time from my hectic new schedule of, oh, say, 3 jobs plus having a pair of kids at home for the summer. Hmm. Make that 5 jobs if you count the kids and my unpaid but very busy job as my drum teacher's business manager.

But it is all good these days.

Here's the latest:

Job 1. Kids. Great. They are about old enough to fend for themselves of an afternoon. Nguyen is only a few blocks away. My mom watches them for one day. And on the days I am not working, I cherish just hanging with them.

Job 2. My client. This has been very rough indeed. I have been unable to keep up a regular schedule for her due to job 3, so I spend a lot of time thinking and praying for her, but feeling very sad about the lack of time. Please, please, keep her in your prayers.

Job 3. The big NEW job. I am having an amazing first couple of weeks at CareNet, RI as the new executive director. And no, it's not the big leather chair, or even the huge office. It is the fact that I get to work at a place where we start the day with.... prayer. How amazing is that? I love the women I work with. I love the clients. And I love the fact that God joins us every day and opens doors we never even knew existed. What IS CareNet, you ask? We are a pregnancy resource center for women facing unplanned pregnancies. We offer women complete information so they can make informed choices about what they are going to do. We offer free everything, from pregnancy tests to limited ultrasounds to parenting classes, childbirth classes, doula support at their birth, mom's groups, post abortion counciling, outreach. It's God's work. No question about it. And it is my great priviledge to have been called to such an important task.

Job 4. Pampered Chef. Not so much. A show here or there... but winding down. I just don't have time for pots and pans these days, even in my own kitchen.

Job 5. Another real joy. I am the business manager for Sidy Maiga, an extremely gifted djembefola and my dear teacher. We are working on a BIG West African party for the end of September and I couldn't be more excited. I have a fabulous dress to wear and will be keeping y'all posted on the particulars. But for now, pencil in the 26th of September and be prepared to DANCE.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Big Love

Even broken, my heart loves big.

I feel like it fills so full it overflows.

Today I am in love with the world. Is it that I can see God in you? Is it that you, too, are so full you are overflowing?

Let's sit together and overflow together.

Because even broken, my heart seems to work.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The new gig

This week I accepted a job as the Executive Director of CareNet, RI. CareNet is a pregnancy resource center that supports women facing unplanned pregnancies. I have been volunteering for them for about 3 years now, teaching childbirth classes. For a brief time in the fall, I also worked there as the volunteer coordinator.

I am excited to be doing this job. CareNet offers critically necessary support to women who are often in a crisis situation. Everything we do is free of charge for the clients, and our services range from free pregnancy testing, peer counciling, limited ultrasound, childbirbirth classes, and parenting support. We also offer post-abortion bible studies.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Every day

When I wake up, it is the first thought that enters my mind. My friend. My loss. My sadness.

And at night, as I am drifting off again, it is the last thought of the day.

Day in and day out.

During the day, if you bump into me at the grocery store, or see me in a drumming class, or chat with me by phone, you may not recognize that something has changed. It's not the brave face, exactly. More like the organic part of me that feels joy and love and is happy to be living in such a beautiful world. That part of me is alive and well and real.

But in the silence of the morning, or the darkness of my room at night, my thoughts turn to Mali. My mind drifts to a dusty red courtyard. I imagine I am there and we are talking. Laughing. Playing. I go over and over the conversations. The moments that I thought were just the beginning turned out to be the end, as well. I hear your rhythms in my head, play them in my heart.

I am having a hard time with this.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Grief, face to face

When my friend Mazé died, I spent a week crying. It was one of the saddest weeks of my life.

And I noticed some things.

People had a hard time dealing with my grief. My mom kept trying to rush me off the phone. Some of my friends didn't want to be near me when I was crying. Others seemed to be having a difficult time understanding why I was so upset since I had only known Mazé for a short time.

The pain came in waves. Sometimes I would be ok. And then, suddenly it would hit me that I was never going to see him again, never play the drum with him again, and I would lose it.

This went on for a full week.

I prayed a lot. Prayed to God for Mazé. Prayed for his children and his fiance. And then I started talking to Mazé. Sometimes in english... sometimes in french. Sometimes a crazy mix of the two.

Then one day I woke up with such joy in my heart. I felt joy for having known him. I felt like I had had great luck to have met him.... so soon before his unexpected and untimely death. I felt an almost manic elation at the realization that God had given me this enormous gift. I spent a week feeling grateful. I began to believe that Mazé himself was praying for me. I knew he wouldn't want me to grieve. And I knew he wouldn't want me to feel alone in my grief. I felt the warmth of his love pouring down on me.

And then it was back. Little by little, the joy began, once again, to recede and the grief crept back in. All this week I have had moments of it. Not the racking sobs of the first week, but the dull ache of loss. The stomach churning pain of it. The moments of remembrance, followed by a sense of such sadness it takes my breath away. I know that when I travel back to Mali, the loss will be even more acute. I can already imagine what it will be like to get off the plane, knowing that there is an empty place on the drumming bench.

I am three weeks in and while it is changing, shifting, elusive, the grief doesn't seem to be going anywhere. And maybe some of my friends and family think I should be over it by now. Moving on.

But I am not.

It isn't over.

I think it is just beginning.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mazé Kouyaté

My dear friend and teacher, Mazé Kouyaté, died unexpectedly this week in Bamako. We suspect it was a cerebral hemmorhage.

Mazé was a very intuitive and powerful teacher. When I studied with him, he never said a word, or even used facial expressions, but would just demonstrate what he wanted me to do and wait until I got it. I will never forget what a thrill it was when it all finally clicked. I didn't know until afterwards that it was a thrill for him, too!

I came back from Mali with his drum, which was, for me, an extraordinary honor.

And while this is a profound personal loss, I also feel deeply grateful that I got a chance to study with and be friends with this gentle and wonderful man.

Tu me manques, mon cher. Toujours.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bubbling over...

When I work at Nicole's, I often cook several dishes at once. I feel like a kitchen dervish, chopping here, tasting there, lifting lids on steaming pots and stirring stir fries while the smells of baking things emanate from the oven. I am a culinary mad scientist.

My life is kind of like that, too. Together, the many dishes can sometimes be overwhelming, but each is a labor of love. Each dish is carefully prepared, the ingredients are lovingly chopped, the recipe developed from years of experience, the main components are brought together into delicious and complex relationships which yield tasty results.

Does stuff get burned? Sure, sometimes.

But at the end of the day, my crazy kitchen of a life is a great joy.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Surprise surprise

God surprises me.

I never know what to expect from Holy week. And each year it is different.

This year, I did all the same stuff, but the big surprise was that the moment... you know, THE moment, was during the Great Vigil tonight. It was when my priest was singing the beginning of the liturgy, in the darkness, in the candlelight. When suddenly I was overcome with gratitude and love and filled with such joy I could barely contain myself.

Some years, the resurrection sneaks up on me some time between Easter and Pentecost.

This year it came, a few moments early, at the very beginning of the Vigil.

Christ is risen, indeed.

Praise God.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Rokia Traoré - Bowmboï LIVE: Sara (Nonesuch 2004)

My hero.

And so it begins

Day 6 on my new food plan.

I tell you, cooking for my client has helped me a lot. She needs her food to be nutritionally excellent because it is fuel. Plus it has to taste great. So even before I went to the doctor, I was thinking about making some changes to my diet.

The first few days on Weight Watchers were TOUGH. Your body kind of goes into shock when you first start a program. I was cranky and light headed and miserable. But I have been there before, so I know it is temporary.

Since then, I have felt really great physically. Clear headed. More energy.

I must admit I have some fear around this. There have been a couple of times in the past when I lost a large amount of weight and then fell off the wagon and gained it back.

This time, though, there are some different dynamics. For one thing, the health issue has never been the main motivator before. I just want to feel better. I don't want my doctor mentioning "Gastric Bypass" EVER again. I want to be able to dance Dansa without feeling like I am going to pass out. And I want to be able to ride bikes and play my kids while they are still interested in hanging out with me.

Another big difference this time is that I have people praying for me. I know that my Tuesday bible study group and my priest are pulling for me. I know if you are the praying type, you're praying for me. I know I can pray at any moment of any day and God will be there, through thick and thin.

It's funny. I belonged to Overeaters Anonymous for years... and while we often prayed for ourselves, we never actually prayed for each other, at least not formally. I wonder if that would have helped?

In any case, having God in my corner has helped me feel less afraid of this process. I know I am the one who has to do the work... but God is giving me the strength, and more importantly, the courage, to do it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Backwards body dismorphia

I know people who think they are fat, even when they are thin. They look in a mirror and the image looking back is big, but in reality, they are normal sized.

I am pretty much the exact opposite. My body size is much larger in reality than it is in my head. When I look in the mirror, I see round, yes, but mostly I see myself as a fabulous babe. :-)

It often comes as a shock when I see someone on television who is my size. To me, they look so much fatter than how I see myself. I have a hard time connecting the dots. And I wonder if this is one of the reasons it has been hard for me to maintain a healthier weight.

In any case, this week my doctor has stated, gently but firmly, that my weight is a health issue. He has suggested I should do something about it.

So today, I joined Weight Watchers and hope that I am able, for today at least, to eat a healthier (and smaller) diet.

And maybe it will be cool to have a body that actually reflects my self image.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Prayers answered, questions raised.

My friend's husband does not have pancreatic cancer. The tumor is benign. When I saw him last night I felt like I was seeing Lazarus back from the dead. This week has been hellish for them... the days between finding the tumor and the biopsy.

I have a confession. I did not handle this well.

I have way too much experience with pancreatic cancer for one lifetime. And I love my friends so much it was unbearable to think that they might have to go through it.

I am a woman of great faith, but truly I could not wrap my head or heart around this. Like Jesus at Lazarus' grave... I was weeping, even while there was a tiny part of me that knew I should be trusting God. But frankly, I couldn't see how God could make this right. I petitioned him even as I could taste the terror in my mouth.

Lord, I want to believe. Help thou my unbelief.

And even now, when the crisis has been averted, I wonder about all those whose tumors are NOT benign. My husbands brother suffered horribly... and left a couple of kids and a wife.

The Lenten sun is glaring. I cannot hide. I have found a place of fear that I didn't know I had. God, may your light heal me. I pray.

And thank you, Lord. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


If you are reading this post, I want to ask a favor.

My friend Paul is having a biopsy on Thursday on his pancreas. Over the weekend they found a mass on it.

Please pray that the mass is benign. Pray for him, his beautiful wife and his children. Pray that they will have the strength to deal with whatever is coming.

The dent revisted

So, a friend read my blog post about the dent and called me.

"I want you to get your car fixed" she said. She explained that she felt there was enough abundance in God's world for giving AND car repairs. That it wasn't an either/or proposition.

I was stunned. But not really. I didn't want to accept her offer. But I did. I cried.

Nguyen said 'You know it's not necessary.'

And I said, yeah, I know. But it is a gift and I am really grateful.

So if you see me driving a big SUV today, it is a rental while my Mazda is in the shop getting a new door panel.

Thank you, my friend. And thank you, God, too.

Monday, March 02, 2009

You, yes, You...

The doctor with the yarmulke.

You, beautiful Muslim woman with the head scarf in the produce aisle. Or you,


Walking down Westminster street, white rope tied around your waist

Brown hooded back

Black shoes


When I see you, I am reminded of how much I love God. And how much I love that you, too, love God.

And it makes me love you.

Yes, you.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Into the desert

Walk with me, will you?

Because we will feel alone, you and I. We will feel like we are standing at the base of Mount Sinai in the Judean hills, with nothing, not a living thing, for miles.

We will forget that Jesus is walking with us. When we feel exposed and naked in the glare of the desert light, when we cannot find a place to hide, we will feel utterly and completely alone.

But we won't be, will we? We will be struggling in the desert with Jesus by our side. We need not wrestle with demons alone.

Take your time. The angels will wait. They will be there when we are finished and welcome us back into the world, to our ministries.

Walk with me, will you?

We need not do this alone.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The most beautiful dent

A few weeks ago, a woman backed her car into the side of my minivan and left a huge dent.

For the first time in 20 years, I filed a claim with my insurance company. A couple of days later, an adjuster came out to the house, assessed the damage, determined that I was not at fault and wrote me a check.

I fully intended to get the car repaired.

I love my car. It is the closest I have ever come to owning a 'new' car. It only had 30,000 miles on it when I bought it 7 years ago. So, I checked out repair facilities and determined that I could get a rental while it was in the shop. I made plans to fix the dent.

Nguyen thought I should take the money and donate it to charity. 'People are hungry. Things are bad. That money could really help someone." he said. I hate it when he gets all charitable. Especially when it is at my expense. Especially when it sheds light on my own lack of generosity.

Yeah, I said, that's all well and good, but what about my car? Am I really going to drive around in a minivan with a big dent in the side? I plan on driving this car into the ground. I want it to look nice while I do.

"Suit yourself." he said. "It's your car."

I made up my mind. I was going to fix the car.

But for some reason, I didn't pick up the phone to make an appointment. I just kept driving with the dent.

And then, on Monday, I was running errands when God suddenly clocked me upside the head.

The money I got for the dent was something like a year's wages in Vietnam or Mali. This money could really do some good for someone. I decided right then and there that I would send some of the money to my father in law in Nha Trang, some of it to my new family in Mali and the rest of it, well, Nguyen and I have a 10 year old mattress that could use replacing....

God shows us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Apparently I am a slow learner.

From now on, when I see the dent, I won't see ugly, twisted metal and flaked paint. I will see a steaming bowl of rice with peanut sauce. And it will be lovely in my eyes.

Sigh. I just hate it when my husband is right.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Within the liturgy

Today, during his homily, our Rector announced that he is retiring and will be leaving at the end of June.

He said it so matter of factly I almost didn't react at first. His homily was a prelude to our annual meeting, which took place following the service. By the time I really registered what he said, we were on to the Nicene Creed.

As we said the creed, it occurred to me that it was totally appropriate for him to sandwich his announcement in the middle of a service. It put the whole thing in context. Everything of importance in our lives finds context in our life of worship. Our births are celebrated, our baptisms, our funerals and weddings. We participate in a mass for all of it. In times of health crisis, we can be anointed, we bring communion to the housebound and the sick. We cycle through the church year, experiencing ups, downs and in-betweens. The church, the body of Christ, give us a vehicle for experiencing the rhythms of life, a context for understanding the natural ebbs and flows of our lives.

When I first was baptised, it was an experience, in my mind at least, that was wholly centered on me. My husband and mom were on the shore. The minister and I were in the water. We said our bit and then I was submerged. When I participated in my first Episcopal baptism, later that year, I remember feeling a little sorry for the man who was baptised because immediately afterwards, we moved on to the communion and he didn't really seem to have time to process any of what happened.

How foolish I was.

More and more, lately, I am coming to love the way the liturgy invites us to step out of the spotlight and allow ourselves to merge with something bigger, finer, more beautiful than we can imagine.

I think Bob understands this. I think that is one of the reasons he is such a remarkable priest.

I am going to miss him terribly.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Je pleure

Yesterday was the first day I was out and about. I went to the Vietnamese New Year party at my sister in laws.

A couple of people asked about my trip and I couldn't talk about it without crying. I am not sure why. At one point, I was actually suppressing sobs. I was talking to my brother's girlfriend and I could barely hold it together.

Today I had lunch with my drumming teacher. I called him yesterday and asked if we could meet because I wanted to talk to him about the trip. We sat in an Asian restaurant on Angel street, slurping noodles and going over our two weeks in Mali. I cried big silent tears the whole time. I realized that even though we were there together, our experiences were not the same.

I am not sure what the crying is about. It sort of feels like joy sometimes. Other times it is just a sense of being emotionally overwhelmed. I feel raw when I talk about Mali. Open and very very vulnerable.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Me... only different

You know how when you hear your voice recorded it sounds totally foreign and strange? When I catch the sound of my own voice on a recording, I am always mortified to realize that that is how I must sound to others.

But here's something funny:

As I have been listening to the recordings of the drumming in Mali, I have caught a few bits of my own voice speaking French and for some reason, it is far less dorky. And though the French is fairly horribly fractured, in the recordings I realize that I didn't sound that bad while speaking it.

Who knew?

Spectacle Ballet du District de Bamako

Spectacle Ballet du District de Bamako
Video sent by pazonote

Thanks to my friend Bubudi at Djembefola forum! Here's a video of some of my friends from Mali. The second group to perform is the District of Bamako Troupe. My dance teacher is the man in gold with the dreadlocks. My drumming teacher is the soloist.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Bear with me. I am working this out as I write.

I think when friends say that a relationship or situation is 'complex', it is a code word for something else: Conflicted. Angry. Hurt. Damaging.

I remember having breakfast once with a woman who practices 'polyamory'. In other words, she has multiple relationships going at once. She was a Christian and we were at a conference together and when I discovered that she was living with two sexual partners, I decided to ask her if I could ask her some questions about it. She seemed kind of grateful that I was willing to talk about it with her, so we had breakfast.

In my head, I was trying to figure out how Christianity and polyamory jive. She gave her explanation, which was basically that she believed God created her to have more than one partner. At some point in the conversation, though, she told me that polyamorous relationships can get very 'complex' because your partner might be having a relationship with someone else and that person might be having relationship with your other partner and there might be yet another person waiting in the wings.

And it was at that moment that I felt that all this complexity can't possibly bring you closer to God.

The longer I am a Christian, the more I strive for simplicity in all of my relationships and dealings. If I start to get a sense that a relationship or situation is pulling my attention away from God, I seriously consider whether I need to make some changes. Keeping my eyes on the creator keeps my head clear.

Love God with all your heart and soul and mind.
Love your neighbor as yourself.

It isn't easy... but it sure is simple.


I got sick on the way home from Mali and have been in bed nursing a bad cold since I got back.

On many levels this was a major bummer. Obviously there were lots of things that needed to get done. Nguyen's patience was already tried mightily having the two boys for two weeks while I was gallivanting around Bamako. For me, too, being sick was no fun at all. It has been terrible to miss work for yet another week. I missed church on Sunday and felt utterly exhausted by the simplest things.

The last time I was bed ridden was 3 years ago when a mysterious auto immune response to a virus left my left knee blown up like a water balloon. For weeks I was in agonizing pain, with no idea what on earth was wrong with me. The only light in the midst of that dark time was that I had started to read the bible with the intention of finishing it in 3 months. Because of all the down time, I was able to do it, coming to the end of Revelations on Maundy Thursday of that Holy Week.

This time I had no agenda, but there has still been an upside to my enforced downtime. It has given me some time to reflect on and process my experiences in Mali. I have turned over the moments like precious jewels, sifting through rust colored dirt to find them shining forth in my heart. My time in bed this week has been a kind of transition back to my life that I think I am mostly grateful for. I am not sure what it would have been like to just jump back in with both feet.

Tonight I was supposed to go on retreat at the Society of St. Margaret's in Boston. Due to my fragile health and the busy schedule of the rest of the group, we ended up canceling the retreat. And while I would have loved to pray and eat and be silent with the nuns, I think in a way, I have already been on retreat this week.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Favorite Words

I spoke French in Mali.

My French is 18 years rusty... and was never that good to begin with. On paper, I studied it for 7 years or so. In reality, I never really 'got it'.

So in Mali, a few things came back, but it was painfully frustrating much of time. I would go running to my friend Lisa's dictionary to find that crucial word. The word that would open the whole realm of meaning in a conversation. It turns out, a conversation really can pivot on a single word.

Here were some of the words that I needed to learn:




I will miss you
Tu me manquerai

I miss you.
Tu me manques.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nothing gets wasted

My new Malian sister gave me some beaded bracelets as a going away gift. They were tied together with a little scrap of plastic bag.

Each morning, when our housekeeper started a charcoal fire for the tea, she used a bit of black plastic grocery bag as a firestarter. It worked like a charm.

Nothing is wasted in Mali. Not the bags, not the food, scraps of metal or bits of this or that. Everything, it seems, is put to good use.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I have tried to start this post several times, but get halfway through the first sentence and abandon it.

Maybe it is because there is too much to tell. Maybe because I am still processing. Maybe because I am still grieving a little for having left Bamako.

I cried on the plane ride home. Not because I wasn't happy to be coming home, but because I was overwhelmed at how much joy I felt while I was in Mali. I expected to have a great time. I did not expect that I would experience such miracles. I would be going about my business, enjoying myself, when suddenly, I would be struck by what an absolute miracle was taking place and was inevitably (and embarrassingly) reduced to tears.

It happened in the night club at 2 am when I looked out at a dance floor stuffed to the gills with Africans dancing to 'Obama Obama' by Lil' Wayne.

It happened when I finally figured out that I was in the middle of a surprise birthday party.

It happened in the cab, always in the cab, when I looked out the window and thought about how I would describe what I was seeing and realized I didn't need to describe it... I could just experience it.

It happened when I took Sidy's mom aside to tell her that no matter what, he has family here in the US. And that now I feel I have family in Mali. We just held each other's hands and knew that some kind of miracle had happened to bring us together across oceans and continents and the big wide Niger river.

It happened everytime my teachers washed to prepare for prayer. Nose, ears, eyes, mouth, feet, hands. Then, facing East, the prayers. I imagined God smiling at such devotion. I smiled too.

It happened when the fruit bats came out at dusk. Huge, like winged foxes, silently crossing the darkening sky.

And when I got a rhythm right on the drum and knew that, even though he didn't show it his face, my teacher was thrilled for me.

And when I walked through Sidy's neighborhood in the dark and felt completely at home.

Showing a friend my rosary and explaining how it worked.

Sharing a loaf of french bread and some coffee with my teachers every morning.

It happened when I realized that my teacher's drum fit perfectly into my bag... and that yes, I was bringing it home with me.

Lying in my darkened room, under the mosquito netting, listening to Malian music drifting through the window.

Hundreds of moments which were little miracles, each of them.

I cried on the plane home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's a beautiful day in Mali

My posts will remain short because it is so difficult to type using the French keyboard... but I just want to check in and say that life here has been very very good. We are thouroughly enjoying our time. Every day we study dance and drumming, then perhaps go out to some street party to see other drummers and dancers.

My birthday was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my entire life. It started at a nightclub the night before. The place was packed and the music fantastic. Believe it or not, there is a pop song about Obama. We went wild when it came on. I danced like a crazy person.... and was completely suprised when I heard the dj dedicate a song to me from Sidy. We didn't get home until 4 am, but since the next morning was sunday, we were able to sleep in. ( Church didn't seem like an option, Peter... otherwise I would have been up for the feast of epiphany.)

Later in the day, Sidy and Lisa went out to run some errands while Rusty and I hung around the house and relaxed. It was very nice. In the afternoon, Mazze, one of my drum teachers, showed up. I was kind of suprised because it was Sunday, but Rusty and I happily sat down for a short lesson. Then Makan and Ladji arrived on motor bikes. Perhaps they were planning to go out with Sidy later. Then Lassi arrived, and Ali. I saw a cab pull up with Sidy and Lisa. Sidy got out of the car with dinner, so we all went into the house to eat. I was suprised when Lassi moved the bench to the end of the room instead of next to the table. All of a sudden, everyone began to sing bonne anniversaire a vous.... and in walked Sidy carrying a birthday cake. When I turned around, I realized that everyone was here to play for me. They lined up on the bench and began to play the drums, while Ladjie and Lassi danced. It all happened so quickly I was utterly unprepared for the emotions I felt. I was completely overwhelmed by this outpouring of love and couldn't stop weeping, which I am sure must have mortified my dear friends, LOL. Truly the most memorable birthday I have ever had.

Africa is extraordinary. I am sure that the relationships I am building here will be the friendships of a lifetime. Every day I feel such a sense of joy for being here. I am deeply grateful to all of you who have been so supportive of this trip... and for your continued prayers.

Love to all of you, especially the kids. I love you, guys.

A bientot.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Where to begin

Today is day three and I feel like I have been in Africa forever. Except that the keyboard is different, so typing is very slow and laborious.

Food- unbelievable.
Bed- Very comfortable.

Africa- I don't know where to begin. Perhaps there is no way to begin. Except that before I came people said that this would be a life changing experience... and I think it would be more accurate to say it is a life expanding experience. And certainly a life giving one.

Every day we study dance with Ladji Diakite. Then Rusty and I study djembe with Makan Kone while Lisa studies dun dun.

I miss my children and husband, but feel such joy at being here, too. Every day I cry for joy. Sidy makes relentless fun of me for it, as he should.

I can't get over how kind everyone is. It moves me deeply that we have become members of Sidy's family. I even have been given an African name: Tinoyé Maiga. I am named after Sidy's grandmother, which is a great honor.

Mali is beautiful...mostly because the people are beautiful.

My French is improving. Next time I come I will work on my Bambara.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

A few random thoughts before I leave the continent

I am on my way to Mali tomorrow.

We are driving to JFK Airport and parking the car there. Our ride fell through at more or less the last minute and we decided that driving made the most sense. So I got an oil change yesterday, checked the tires and updated the maps on the gps.

In my bags: The usual stuff- underwear, tee shirts, capris, a couple pairs of sandals. Lots of toiletries because I really don't know what, exactly, is available in Mali. Plus some trail mix and granola bars, just in case.

I took my first dose of anti-malaria medication a couple of hours ago and haven't noticed any side effects so far.

I have noticed something about this trip. When I tell people I am going to Africa, they respond with their deepest fears and/or prejudices about it.

People are afraid of it. They are afraid of the diseases, the poverty, the culture. I get lots of comments about my personal safety or health issues. I have even had comments about sexual health issues and not catching AIDS. Uh, I don't think that's an issue. Really.

So there is still something kind of mythological about Africa. It seems to embody people's darkest fears.

Part of it, I am sure, is that the only media attention ever given to Africa is negative. We learn of Somali pirates and cholera outbreaks, dictatorships and malaria, AIDS epidemics and ebola. This drives my drumming teacher crazy, sometimes. He gets frustrated that most Americans think Africans live in jungles and have bones through their noses. (Not that there's anything wrong with that....)

For me, the information I have about Mali is different. It is a place inhabited by people I know and love. I have friends there... and family, of a sort. I listen to the music of Mali and am transported to a place of joy and beauty. I feel like I am reaching back to a distant past and far into the future as I listen to the music of our collective ancestors.

And when I hold a drum, play the skin, smell the remnants of the barnyard the goat lived and died in, I am connected to that past and that future.

Tomorrow I am getting on a plane and I am putting my life and faith in God's hands. He is with me here, in Morocco, in Mali, and everywhere. Forever. I am leaving my preconceptions behind and open my heart and mind to the experience of Mali, first hand.

Allons y.