Sunday, August 29, 2010


if my life were a EKG or lie detector test, there would be wicked leaps and drops, nothing really steady and certainly few things that remained in constant.

i'm wanting to add some rhythm, some constancy to my life, where i can. many of the things that make it so topsy-turvy are completely out of my hands, but i have a tiny bit of control over some things and am really needing to find a rhythm in all of it.

some efforts i've tried so far: daily bible reading, daily prayer with my husband, preparing my lunch to take everyday to school, writing to my husband weekly, afternoon rest moments, looking at the positive side of things. and now i want to add weekly blogging. (i have to admit i am really bad at getting this rhythm down, so forgive me ahead of time.)

so often i have a lot i'd like to write, but i don't for one of the following reasons: it's too harsh, it's too messy, it's too personal. but as i've been teaching my advanced kids about story, and how it is important to tell a story, one you believe in, one that makes you feel positive and reaches others, i've realized i need to tell these stories. not all of them will be world-shaking or even very interesting. but there is something in telling that allows us to recognize new sides of the thing we are experiencing.

so in the midst of all the things from this weekend: no city water, constant rain, blackouts, my nephew's dad in jail for an accident, debts they will have to pay, a continually flooding school, allergies, weariness, irresponsibility, and the sticky stain of corruption on this country, i want to tell you a story.

a good story. i hope.

it was friday afternoon, and all were anxiously awaiting the news that the new pump had finally been installed and we would have water again. i had just woken up from a fabulous nap under the watchful eye of the brewing storm, the applause among the plantain trees the perfect lullaby. my husband and i went to check the water situation only to find out it would be another 2 weeks before the water would be back. like many things here, the new pump did not work and they would have to wait to buy another.

so we got to thinking. and planning. and shoving. not each other that is, but old pvc piping. alongside my husband, nephews, brother-in-law,and church members on the soaked ground, we came up with a device to catch rainwater and direct it into our water tank. it made me smile to see us all there, muddy and wet but laughing as we wrestled with various pipes and glue to make this contraption that stretched 8 feet from the roof to the opening of the tank. there was this triumph evident in their eyes, excited that they found a way to beat our circumstances.

since it had rained pretty hard, i had a full barrel of water and i could finally wash some clothes. my nephew started hauling water from one tank to where i was washing clothes, one after the other. my husband bounced around from one project(a soccer ball stuck in the gutters causing a flood) to another (fixing the piping we didn't use). as i scrubbed out the week's dirt and let my thoughts swirl around in the lather, i felt grateful. in the midst of not very fun circumstances, i had seen how we had come together, how each one gave what they could to make it work, to live. there is so much need here. so much that we don't have. and without this kind of unity and support, we drown. we dry up and get beaten down. and it was refreshing to see it work, to find that it just came together. with the sun peeking out apologetically, i hung those clothes up with satisfaction. who cares if it's not fixed? we have what it takes to make it through...and i see this apply to hunger, poverty, corruption, fear, betrayal, lack, emptiness.

maybe we can't 'fix' nicaragua. but we can be the best versions of ourselves, together, without letting our surroundings weigh us down.*

(*this is often so very hard to do. case in point: brother-in-law in jail for an accident in which neither has insurance and the kids on the motorcycle were injured, lots of debt from that, waiting around in the dim police station trying to negotiate and all of a sudden, a thief has gotten into a bus in the police station parking lot and stolen the radio. and they send the youngest girl member of the force to run after him, slipping and sliding in the mud.obviously she didn't catch him.

it makes me want to scream...inexplicably difficult for me to be the best version of myself or for us to overcome with unity. pressed down. but not crushed.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

rain pounded on the zinc overhead...

and i half-shouted over the giggling 5th graders to help them finish their project. They colored and cut and glued and glittered, as i glanced at the rising water collecting from the heavy rain.

the final bell rang and we shouted a prayer to keep us safe, as the kids shifted their backpacks and fiddled with their white shirts, untucking them a stretch at a time. as we left the classroom, they all chattered excitedly over the situation, but i was remembering the last time this occurred: the steadily growing tide that consumed the office and the high school,a wake of recess snack bags and sludge cluttering the normally shiny surfaces, and the resulting wave of illness from the wet clothes and disgusting liquid squishing in our shoes. i put them to study math as i waited impatiently to know how we were going to resolve this one.

at 3:12, the stragglers crossed the soggy soccer field with me and a couple of other teachers, only to find the cafeteria a swirling pool of sticks, trash and a foot and a half of water. We huddled in the remaining sprinkles of the rain and i went to check on the office situation. there i found my other teachers with the director, now past the nervous stage and on to the witty stage, a skill we have from living in a continually negative and unstable world. if only we had known what that slithering pool around our feet was doing just a kilometer away...

now, i don't know about you all, but i tend to shy away from things i KNOW i'm not good volleyball. and overwhelming crowds of people. and resisting chocolate temptation. and grief. maybe there isn't anyone whose really good at grief, but i feel especially unequipped at it. being a very sensitive person whose emotions swell and spiral and suffocate, i become very delicate and...different. and i just don't like it.

so you can imagine how much i was dreading yesterday, as i had to face my co-workers and students after the drowning of a dear 10th grader. that water that changed our afternoon as it twisted by our school changed anita's life as she tried to get home.she was trying to pass an unpassable turn that was running with the current, while my fellow teachers and i were up to our ankles in that same filthy water, laughing from some quip about the photocopier that was teetering on the table. it's sobering to think about just how NOT in control we are, for all we'd like to pretend and imagine.

i felt like a zombie as i walked through the day, pasting on a smile in front of the primary school kids as they had normal classes, tucking that grief away in the roof of my mouth, speaking with care so as to not dislodge it. but when i found myself with those i could be open about my grief with, i swallowed it, stone-faced and cut off. and all i could keep thinking was, how is one supposed to deal with grief? sure there are a ton of books and strategies and 'tools' that can be accessed, but i think it's like marriage and childcare and 'life crises'...they are just things that happen to you in life, things that you enter and depending on who you are and, i would say, how you relate to God, will affect how you deal with it.

as i listened to isaac sing 'alaba' and watched the students maintain vigilance over anita throughout the service, i rested in that pain. i let it be there and allowed myself to acknowledge it, to experience it. to cry and to laugh and to let it drip through my fingers.

i think my reaction, and that of many, is to hurry it up, to get it over and done with and to not let it take up too much space or time. but then i think of the truth that His power is made perfect in our weakness. and though i don't understand it, that it's ok to let that be true, to believe it, to apply it to my life. and not just with grief, but disappointment, fear, pain, loss, anxiety, worry, waiting, trials, tests, growth, change...whatever.

let it take the space it needs. but remember that the One who is in control, is the One who overcomes and brings us out of it. and Who will use it for His glory, which in turn always means good for us.

may His peace and provision cover her family and friends and may His presence be a balm on the rawness of this grief.