The wrong fight

There was a super poignant scene in the latest episode of “Parenthood” and if you’re not all caught up, this could contain a spoiler for you, so be warned, fellow viewers.

It was a subtle moment, an exchange that takes place in restaurants everywhere, every night of the week. Joel fights his boss to pay the bill after a celebratory business dinner. Joel covers his boss’s hand and says that, no, he insists. He says this job is the only thing that makes sense in his life right now, so he is paying forward his gratitude.

There are a lot of implications to this scene: possible romantic undertones with Joel and his boss, the expense and the celebration that Joel is withholding from his wife from whom he is recently separated.

But the part I keep considering is the fight. Joel fights to pay the bill. He puts the strong hand out and slips his credit card in the slot. He doesn’t have to fight to understand his job right now–it’s the only thing he doesn’t have to fight. In other words, he’s fighting to preserve the very thing that comes easily to him.

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A major theme over the last few weeks of Parenthood has been the fight for what matters: meaningful work, a house full of memories, a marriage under duress. Julia, Joel’s wife, keeps accusing him of not fighting for their marriage, and we see in the tears Joel keeps holding back (he must be really tired of the script lately!) that he must feel already defeated in some ways.

I can identify with this fight.

I am not in the midst of a separation or a divorce, but I am great at fighting for the things that come easily to me. The very things that I shouldn’t have to fight for–more time for things that will not make a difference, more connections and clothes and capital–things that will ultimately fade. It takes courage to fight for the things that are more lasting. It takes intention and guts and salty tears.  The admiration of my husband, the hearts of my children. These are all I get to bring in the UHaul behind me. Why am I not fighting harder for them?

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It was Bump Up Day at Baby Girl’s school today. All the kids in kindie got to experience the first grade classrooms, etc. Loverpants reminded me that it if were Korea, the kids would have had to take a test before they were allowed to advance to the next grade level.

Oh that I would welcome the test so I’m ready to be bumped up to the next level. That I could face the fight for growth and accept with gratitude grace as so much of this battle has already been won by the One.

The race continues: in memory of Martin Richard

April is upon us; it will be one year since the bombs exploded at the finish line to the Boston Marathon. My heart still breaks.

We say, “my heart is breaking for those people,” all the time, but we don’t mean it. We feel sympathy and imagine how awful those affected must feel, and then we move on. The next tragedy lights up CNN’s ticker and our watercooler chatter.

Once you have experienced true heartbreak due to the end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, you know what that entails.  You carry the ache with you, and maybe it will subside incrementally with the passing of a season, but it never truly leaves you. That ache, at once pronounced and eventually more dull, is always there. Its imprint is permanent so that it changes you.

The bombings in Boston on April 15, 2013 changed me, and I know I am not alone in this.

Many of us can mention a word and it flips a switch in our consciousness, such that when my friend Litch finds himself complaining, his wife Shelley will simply say, “Haiti,” and Litch’s purview on what constitutes a real problem shifts. He remembers the abject poverty he and Shelly observed on their trips to Haiti. He knows the flat tire on his Prius is a privilege, not a problem.

For me, I’ve not had many of these consciousness changers. I was born into privilege, I have known a life of comfort, I have experienced season after season of relative ease.

But for the last year, the mere mention of the name “Richard” has sent me reeling. I see their late son Martin Richard with the deep pools of brown eyes reminding us with his magic marker scrawled message to pursue Peace. To stop hurting people. I think of his mom, Denise Richard, my first neighborhood mama friend in Dorchester. I think of their family and their pain and their loss and then I think of their triumph just in putting one foot in front of the other, or, in the case of their daughter Janie Richard, putting one prosthetic leg in front of her God-given Irish step-dancing leg. That’s all I need to reframe this moment in time. I hug my children more tightly, I give thanks for the blessing of scrubbing pee-soaked bathroom floors for these people; I give pause because–the Richards.

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This is not to say that I give thanks in any way for the unimaginable pain of the Richards (or anyone with sense memories of that day). Their tragedy is not for my utility.  I am thankful, simply, that our stories continue.

If one motif has crystallized for me in these last twelve months, it is this: that the wisdom of the Marathon bombings is about the heart of children never leaving their parents, and the heart of parents never truly leaving their children.

  • Anzor Tsarnaev left his children in the United States in 2011; he was ill with cancer and vowed not to die in America. He was not able to bury his eldest son; he may never see his youngest son again.
  • Denise and Bill Richard, both injured, had to leave Martin at the scene of the crime. They had to leave their slain son, an innocent lamb, where police stood protecting him until all evidence had been gathered. He was covered with the sheet from a nearby restaurant. Under a pure sheet of white, Martin laid. 
  • An all-loving father in Heaven sent his only son to a broken planet and allowed him to die for crimes he never committed.

But none of these stories ends there. Tsarnaev will mourn his sons and his family’s dissolution. The Richards will mourn Martin and they will heal and they will fight the flames of hatred with peace through the MR8 Foundation. They bring beauty from ashes and I am moved to tears at the very thought of the name Richard.

And my savior rose on the third day, a day that is marked this year one day before the Marathoners will lunge and launch into 26.2 miles of self-inflicted agony to test their bodies’ endurance  to reach the finish line.

Those who cheer on the sidelines, those who assist the injured, those who protect and serve and report and promote peace–they are all a part of this story that continues as we all run this hard race until glory beckons us all home.

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To contribute to the MR8 Foundation, you can make a tax-deductible contribution here. 

What Go Go Go Go Go Joseph has to do with me

When Baby Girl was almost two years-old, she was playing with the manger set at my mom’s house. The characters were stuffed representations of Mary, Joseph, Wee Baby Jesus and the other usual suspects. Baby Girl kept playacting out scenes in the manger (shepherds giving piggyback rides to camels, wise men playing touch football with the frankincense) and she kept referring to Mary and Jo-puff. We could not stop repeating this. It’s super fun to say and there’s no cuter couple than Mary and Jo-puff.

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I still refer to Jo-puff like this in my  head, but he is emerging as a more significant Bible character for me.

Jo-puff (Joseph to the uninitiated) and even if you’ve never read the story of Joseph, chances are you’ve seen the musical or heard the tune about his amazing techni-color cloak.  Joseph was born a favorite son of his father and then was sold off as a slave by jealous brothers. He eventually became a key cabinet member to the pharoah, was jailed but then freed. All the while, it is clear that in spite of his trials, God has important plans for Joseph. Joseph just needs to have faith.

Broken record much?

I know. And so the broken record spins on. He just had to have faith. It’s another adage from the bucket of Hard Things that require So Much More more than just determination, but which people reduce to brief imperatives. Just say no to drugs. Get an ‘A’. Ask her out. Get yours today.

Joseph’s story always seemed very base to me. He wasn’t the interesting oft-conflicted David, fighting his inner demons while seeking after God’s own heart. He wasn’t Jonah, playing hide-and-seek in a whale. He wasn’t Noah with the  cruise ship zoo. He was Joseph with the flamboyant coat, and he ended up living with the king and having to forgive the same people over and over and over.  So I guess we’re supposed to forgive people even if they don’t like what we’re wearing. Point taken. The end.

Joseph, oh hai.

Recently, I am identifying with my man Joseph, however. Maybe it’s because I have been a bit of an ass lately. Maybe it’s because I was just telling Loverpants that I’ve been fighting negativity like woah and am getting in my own way. I’ve been struggling to prioritize my priorities list. I keep having to ask forgiveness over and over and over and I feel restless and want to know what is the next step from here, because I can’t be stuck here. Not in this place. Contentment and I are strange bedfellows, you feel me?

I think about the story of Joseph and the difference between Joseph and me is that he was always looking up and I’ve been looking down, and that has made all the difference, transcendentalists. Joseph knew and I know that God has His hand over us. Joseph knew like I know there’s work we’re called to do. But Joseph had a sense of purpose which formed his identity, and I’ve been looking to my identity to discern my purpose. Joseph looked up and trusted and knew there was a way out of this ditch in the field.

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Hey, Joseph. I see you. I see you seeing God and in so doing, I see you seeing your mission impossible.

I want to see what he’s seeing right now.

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I just started the Restless Project because I have done a Jennie Allen Bible study before and it involved a lot of drawing pictures that appeal to my adult ADD. Also, restlessness is my specialty. If being restlessness were a full-time job, I’d be known as a workaholic and pulling in a mint every month. I thought this study might help. So far, it’s been a huge blessing. Let me know if you’re going to do it, too, and maybe we can do it together (even remotely?).

 

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