Saturday, October 15, 2011

On dying and becoming

{On the sixth anniversary of his proposal}

Six years ago, Hans flew to New Haven. There, he mopped my floor and asked me to marry him. That girl who said "yes" had no idea what was coming for her.

Here are some thoughts from the past six years. They have nothing, yet everything, to do with celebrating our marriage.

1. Became and becoming.
Two months after our wedding, we moved to Trinity. Since then, we have lived in the same apartment, served in the same church, and we are still working on the same illusive degrees. In one sense, we have not gained anything; we have not gone anywhere. Yet, we are so different now. By the grace of God, we are not who we used to be. And this is a very good thing.

We became, and we are becoming
husband and wife, mom and dad, children of God.

2. Life is a string of little deaths.
Marriage and childbearing are much like second and third conversions for me. They are milestones that mark new phases of learning how to die to myself. Marriage was somewhat of a gradual death. Motherhood, on the other hand, struck me down like a thunderbolt. I am a tree in the storm, bent beneath the weight of the sky.

But feeling small is not a bad thing. Pain has been a kind teacher to me.

3. Finders losers; losers keepers.
I cringe when I think of the lofty words in my graduate school applications. I wrote something about finding myself, and helping others to find themselves. Bleh. Life cannot be found this way.

Finders losers; losers keepers. Jesus said, "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever who loses his life for my sake will find it." I had neither the discipline nor the selflessness to live life giving myself to others. So God sent the boys, tiny faces of grace speaking truth. Their cries of hunger and outstretched arms rescued me from my self-idolizing heart. They are rescuing me still. For their sake, I want to be the kind of mother who would lay down her life for others. Though it may not feel like anything spectacular, somewhere between mastitis and sleeplessness, the dying and the losing, God gives life.

I read somewhere that blood is poured out during childbirth and at the Cross--for the giving of life, "great loss holding hands with great gain."

4. I like holding hands.
We first held hands when Hans visited me in Denver, while I was sipping on sesame boba tea (he ordered something else). I have not seen this flavor for years, until a few weeks ago when some friends from Denver sent us three pounds of the good stuff.

We are still holding hands. He still cleans my messes. And I am so happy to have said "yes." Thanks for asking, darling.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On whales, trains, and stories

One night, after the children were in bed, I went into Hans' study and started spewing information about pregnant humpback whales, the growth spurt of baby humpbacks (100 pounds a day), and how they nurse (40 times a day, yielding about 130 gallons of milk, 50% milkfat). Fascinating stuff, right?

I stopped when I saw a huge grin on Hans' face. "What is so funny?" I demanded. "You are talking about breastfeeding whales," he responded.

OK, fine. I can see how that can be perceived as a little weird.
I blame this on motherhood. Emeth gave me his sea-creature-fever and I didn't even know it.

Mommy cow scolded baby cow for standing on the train tracks.

The train was, of course, carrying an octopus and a shark.

These are familiar sights around our home. This is Emeth's world. And it has become our world. Colliding stories. They make perfect sense in the mind of their creator, "Mommy, let me tell you a story. One day..."

Emeth lives in stories; and Emeth lives out stories.

During dinner one night, he was licking rice off the his plate. When I reprimanded him, he answered: "Emeth is not a cow?" Ah, thank you for the explanation. I am never sure where we are during our walks anymore, "Emeth, are we a school of fish in the coral reef (the bushes) or are we trains on the tracks (the sidewalk)?" I need to pay more attention.

I am well aware that one of the biggest advantages I have over all the other voices in his life is that I get to tell him his first stories. Stories make his world. Stories draw boundaries between light and darkness, day and night, sea and sky, right and wrong, good and bad. Stories give him people and things to love.

Mr.Squash meeting the wild animals at the zoo.

Hans found it slightly disturbing when I became fascinated with North Korea. I was digging around the web for articles, videos, pictures, anything really. And as always, after the children were in bed, I sat in Hans' study and spewed information.

How do they bear the weight of their fear? How do they endure the silence and the emptiness of their streets? How did they become so deceived?


The same can be said for the concentration camps during World War II. Or how people captured other human beings and make them slaves. Or how pimps deceive young girls into prostitution. They each began with a story -- very, very bad ones.

We expect to be entertained when we walk into the cinema. As we drive down the highway, we are bombarded by streams of billboards. Movies, dramas, video clips, reality shows, commercials, books, the news. We think we are above them. We think they are harmless. In fact, we don't think very much of them at all.

Kim Jong Il, the dictator of North Korea, thinks very much of these things. He knows the power of storytelling. Some call it propaganda. Actors and actresses in North Korea are handpicked by Kim Jong Il, and they are counted among the most privileged of the country. They live and perform to give joy to their "Dear Leader."

In Pyongyang, there is a shrine dedicated to the "Dear Leader." Well, actually he has many shrines, but this particularly one is a museum of cinematography, in which he is the star. Of all things, the people revere him as a genius of the cinema, the theater, and the circus. Prime ministers and presidents of other nations do not receive such praise in these fields. But it seems that his strategy works, the level of control Kim Jong Il has on his subjects is astounding.

When I spewed information about North Korea on my sister Catherine (my poor family), she thoughtfully responded: "I wonder whether I am living in a delusion?"

Yes, of course we are. Like children, we live in stories, and we live out stories. But unlike children, we don't think very much of them. In fact, we don't think very much at all.