Friday, May 13, 2011

Ruined For Life

What began as an email response to my sister-in-law, Kimberly’s, thoughts on life in the American suburbs, has turned into several days of soul-searching and processing my own experience here. Often, I try to push the following thoughts out of my head. I think if I stopped and considered them for too long or too often, I might lie down and never get up. These have been incredible, life-changing, soul-altering, but dark, lonely days. I thought I would share this process with y’all, friends and family, but please keep in mind it is a process and I am still working through so many things right now. Please give me grace as I process through all that I have seen and now, frankly, don’t know what on earth to do with.

Sometimes I feel like I have been ruined for life on earth by these last six months in S. Asia.Sometimes I find myself longing so desperately to go home (as in heaven) that it is an ache in my throat that rises and manifests itself as tears in my eyes. It is an emptiness that I have never known. I want to escape in ways I have never experienced. I’m not suicidal. I just don’t know what to do with reality.

I grew up in a fairly affluent, upper-middle class home in the suburbs of the USA. I loved my childhood for the most part and have nothing but fond memories of my private college experience. I went to summer camp. I knew Jesus well. My parents loved me and protected me and took care of me. I had an idealic growing up. No, it was not perfect, but it was lovely. And I loved it. I found it easy to enjoy experiences and life and vacations and walking down the street and taking a shower and even going to the grocery store or doing yard work or people watching…

It’s harder to find things to enjoy here. Of course I delight in my marriage, my husband, my precious, beautiful wonderful children. I still love to read. I love to eat good food. I love to drink a glass of wine every now and then. I love to go to the mall and get a $5.00 (yes, you read that right) manicure. But I don’t enjoy these things, or many other things for that matter, the way I used to enjoy them. I can’t relax and indulge, because, for lack of better terms, the things I have seen in these last six months have ruined me. Honestly. I don’t know what to do with them. For the first time in my life, I have questioned what I know to be true of a loving God. I have questioned why me and not them? I have questioned why He would bring me here, because WHAT on EARTH can I do?

These people. These people. These beautiful, human beings crippled by disease, by poverty, by caste, by life, by hunger, by slavery…they confront the foundation on which I stand and I’m watching it crumble. No. I’m not questioning my faith. I’m just saying, things that I could have once easily articulated as true, are harder to articulate now. I see human beings debilitated by polio who walk around on their hands. I see hungry children with outstretched palms whenever I go out. I feel bitter, “are they taking advantage of me?” I feel guilty, “How could you think that, Maggie!? You wouldn’t trade places with them for anything, even if they are taking advantage of you, they are surviving!” I see young women holding babies that look half dead from heat and hunger with empty, dirty baby bottles. It is likely, I am told by locals, the babies aren’t even theirs and any money I give them will go to a pimp. I feel self-righteous and critical and ashamed and powerless.

I have no idea what to do with these things. I feel both panicked and desperate to go back to America. Sure, we have PLENTY of our own problems in that nation under God, but they are easier to hide from. They slink behind windows with drawn, quiet curtains. They lurk in back of well-kept parks and litterless yards and multi-car garages. They don’t accost you in the daylight like dark apparitions hungry-eyed and expectant, looking for a hand-out, looking for your help.When I read my sister-in-law’s account of her brunch crisis, all I could think was, “I so get you.”It’s not brunch you hate. It’s not women you hate. It’s not fellowship you hate. It’s a disparity that you have seen with your eyes and that you cannot reconcile. It is the utter, apparent absence of grace in one place and the seeming abundance of blessing in another. Oh, but don’t mistake your happiness for blessing, dear ones. I do that all the time. And these months of darkness, of questions, of sorrow, of grief before unfelt, of absolute silence, of not knowing what to say or do with these things that I have seen, have been some of the best and most profound in my life.

Sure. I’m ruined for brunch. I will never go to one without squirming a little. I will never be in the midst of opulence or comfort or excess without thinking of the least of these whose lives would be so improved by the overflow. I pray to GOD I don’t stop here, at thinking, and that it moves into doing something. Please pray for me as I struggle with a critical spirit, a self-righteous ego, a feeling of helplessness, a heart that has no idea what to do with what I have seen. And please pray with me for S. Asia, and Newark, and the other broken places, that people will go and love and be ruined, even when it hurts.

I Saw What I Saw by Sara Groves

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Fading Voice

Generally, I can't get through one of his works; his arrogance and sarcasm accost my senses. But this was different. It is soulful, honest, almost apologetic. Every man has a heart, a story, and Christopher Hitchens is no different. I thought this article worth the read.


Annie's First Bicycle

In the evenings we often go down to the park to play with the other children in our apartment complex. While at first, Annie was content to play on the park equipment or explore the grounds, lately she has been staring wistfully at other chidrens' bicycles. Sometimes, when they get off their bikes, she casually saunters over and steals the bike to go joy riding on her own. Since her birthday is in December, there was little hope of Annie getting a bike of her own until she turned 4.

But then.

But then I thought, "I really want this kid to have something that ties her to this place when we leave for the states (IN A WEEK!). I want her to WANT to come back here. Of course, she doesn't have to have this incredible luxury...but man, it would make her want to return.

Furthermore, I realized Annie and I were in a relationship rut. It was not a good place. Basically, Annie is a really creative time-passer and often finds herself in trouble.

i.e. dumping out all the soap in the bathroom onto the bathroom floor/sink/toilet and then spraying it with the toilet sprayer (they have these in lots of places around the world...but not usually America, it looks like the sprayer in your kitchen sink but you use the toilet.) to make bubbles. Yes she gets consequences and reminders when she does this. No. They do not work. And that is really just one of many many examples that drive me crazy and lead to conversations like the following:
A: silence
M: Seriously, WHY did you do that!?
A: I don't know.
M: That's not an answer, that does not count as an answer!!!
A: silence
M: blah blah blah (at least I think that is what annie hears) with a barrage of negative words launched at my creative three year old.

Our relationships was in a rut.

So, to kill several birds at once, we introduced the Bicycle star chart.
a.k.a. The positive affirmation chart
(or as our friend David calls it) "the works righteousness chart"
Call it what you want, but it has done WONDERS for Annie's and my relationship and her perspective on life. No longer does she wonder, "How can I find creative ways to pass the time?" Now she wonders, "How can I get more stars for my star chart!?"

Here is a completed star chart.

And of course, Lily had to have one too.
Hers is a bit more organic in terms of where we actually place the stars.
But the same idea applies: POSITIVE AFFIRMATION
And so. After about a month and a half of striving and succeeding and failing and trying again and working her little hiney off, Annie earned her first bicycle.
All she wanted was "purple and white."
It was love at first sight for this purple and white bicycle with a bell and a convenient sitting place in the back for sisters.
It is also covered with Hannah Montana, but Annie doesn't know who that is.
She went with Jonathan to the store to pick it out and when they got home, she said, "Mommy! I got a bicycle that is purple and white!" Then she pointed to Hannah and said, "This is Annie."
"Time to Shine," Annie.
Shine on.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Anne Oliver Iverson
December 9 2007
Lillian Emeth Iverson
June 27 2009
Iverling #3

A friend posted this video on her blog this morning. I just love the picture of sewing seeds whose roots run deep and then become trees that rise up, spread out their branches and bless the dawn. I want my own precious little trees to rise up strong and sure of what they believe to bless and not harm, to shade and not scorch, to praise and glorify.

I mentioned recently that I am not a sacrificer. It is an ugly truth I have been able to avoid all my life. How sweet, though, that it was my very own children who most effectively revealed these realities about their mamma and then taught me to sacrifice, to die, to give that they might have life. Because of my babes, I know my Savior more fully. What a gift that the ones I love so deeply, so inexplicably...the ones I cannot escape and don't want to escape are the ones who teach me to do a thing so unnatural to this self-preserving human body and mind:
Give fully of MYSELF.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped wondering: "Who am I?" "What do I like?" "What do I want to be?" and instead started wondering: "How can I bless and not curse?" "How can I learn to be more patient?" "How can I learn to have more self-control with my temper?" "How can I learn to bless and not hurt?" "How can I tender these precious seeds, these now saplings so that they rise up strong to bless others?"

Thank you, Father, for this gift. I truly truly had NO idea what I was getting myself into when I started on this journey almost 3 1/2 years ago with Annie.
(4 if you count pregnancy...which I DO!)
But it has been a sweet, gut-wrenching, heart-rending, amazing, unexpected, painful, terrifying, out-of-my-control-but-realizing-that-might-be-the-best-part ride.
Praying it goes on and on...
I love you my precious children.

3 years old
1 1/2

Little Lady Lily and the Hospitree

Hospitree=tamil for "Hospital"

On Saturday we were swimming with friends. We had a lovely afternoon in the pool in their housing community and had just eaten lunch after about an hour of swimming. I was putting on Lily's water wings so she could go back in the pool and all of a sudden she arched in pain and cried (one of those long silent cries where they don't breath) and crumbled into my lap. She just lay there and cried and wouldn't move and every time I moved her she cried harder. Our friends' mom is a doc so she felt lily's arm and said it wasn't fractured but recommended we go to the hospital.
So we left Annie with the husband and house helper and their three year old while Jonathan, Lily, the wife, their driver and I all headed to the hospital. It was so sad. Lily never stopped whimpering. When we go to the hospital they saw us right away and everyone was incredibly compassionate and kind. They felt Lily's arm and did a gentle movement on it (during which she screamed bloody murder) and then suddenly, she was like a different child. She was fine. She was moving her arm again and pointing at things. I think it must have popped out a bit at the elbow. They gave her some pain meds and she has been fine ever since. The whole experience truly couldn't have gone more perfectly and it was a total blessing all the way around. We are being careful with that arm, but the girl is a trooper and she made a lot of friends at the hospital!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Grandma's Fan

There is a quiet cafe in the north of our country that sits nestled among some pretty famous mountains. They serve cream of tomato soup like it should be served. And they have homemade breads and bagels and salads from veggies grown in their sustainable organic garden. It's a lovely place. And the women who work there, the women who are trained there, are those "challenged by life." I have never faced the kind of challenges they face: born into scheduled castes, born into families who have nothing, born into poverty, born into hopelessness. But the woman who runs this cafe teaches these women how to sew, how to cook, and how to hope.

Since we moved here, I have been wanting to get quilts for the girls' beds and I was hoping I would find some up North when we traveled there. Alas, I didn't find what I was looking for, so they made them for me: custom order.

When I was growing up, I had a handmade quilt from NC called "Grandma's Fans" and it had that beautiful quilting fan pattern all over it. In an effort to nod to my own childhood quilt (which I still have), I designed the quilts to have fans throughout. But we used bolder colors (shocking) than they typically do in the quilting world.

I just got them a week ago and we all love them.
Annie wanted blue and red and pink.
Lily got green.
They make my heart sing.

And one of the best, unexpected parts: a matching flip side!
Heart singing right now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Family Hike

My husband is an adventurer.
If he is not moving, he is thinking about moving.
He is thinking about what his next move will be.
So on a Saturday morning, we filled our water bottles, packed up a lunch, loaded a backpackand headed out to a trail outside of our city.
It was hot. There wasn't a lot of shade. There wasn't much of a trail. And frankly, the hike we had hoped to do, we didn't do with two small children and a pregnant wife...
it was one of my favorite memories made as a family thus far.

I love being married to this adventuring wanderer and I love the way he leads us through life.
Sometimes it's not comfortable and there is rarely a trail to follow, and usually the thing we set out to do is replaced by something else...but it's something better. And by the grace of the holy spirit, this life Jonathan leads me on makes me better and refines me. I am learning to be flexible and trusting and I am learning to be a supporter. (It's only taken five years...right?) I am learning to sing songs and tell stories even when I'm hot and tired.
I am learning how to be a sacrificer.
I am not a sacrificer.
But I am learning.
So goes the metaphor of our family hike.
Enjoy the photos.

Monday, May 02, 2011


Proverbs 3: 5-6 (According to Lillian)

Me: Trust in the
Lils: Lohd
M: With all your
L: Howt
M: And leeeeean not on your own
L: Money!

Where on earth did that come from!?
(FYI: it's supposed to say, "understanding" on that last one...)

Sunday, May 01, 2011


A new post for Jenny C. and welcome welcome welcome sweet Attie.
Two Iverson girls can't wait to meet you!