Friday, September 26, 2008

still thinking

This week I spoke to Elba's high school Girl Scout Troop. Their troop leader asked me to speak on the Tanzanian maternal health partnership I know and love. I told them about Kidete Couture (see Sept. 10 post) and the "little things" the women needed.

I asked the girls what their little things were. Here are some of their responses:
real friends
money for college
a smile
a hug
someone who really cares

Some of their "little things" aren't so little. I guess that is the whole point.

One girl wrote "a skinnier body" as her response. How do we counter popular culture and still be a part of it?

Still thinking about those "little things" . . .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Love Conquers All

Life as I know it will never be the same again, and I am eternally grateful. Change is an understatement in describing the last couple of months in our home. Coffee tables that used to hold the morning’s rushed cup of coffee, now hold half-emptied baby bottles and yesterday’s burp cloth. A peaceful night’s rest now consists of 3AM feedings and sporadic bouts of crying. Simple outings to the store now entail a perfectly stocked diaper bag and all the baby essentials. Favorite TV shows, which were once watched all the way through, now involve multiple pauses and often missed endings. Hours spent on the phone to family and friends are now brief conversations tucked in between naps and feeding times. On July 19, 2008 at 9:50AM, my life was forever changed.

I admit it, I’m in love. When you’re in love, it’s easy to forget the lack of sleep. When you’re in love, it’s easy to forgive the bouts of crying and the disorderly house. Love conquers all things. During late night feedings nestled on the couch I stare in awe at this little person before me. I make contact with his sleepy eyes and tell him a story or two, or sing a few verses of my favorite hymn. I study his tiny fingers and chubby arms as they grasp my chest. I take notice of his soft hair and memorize every wave and swirl. I am mesmerized as I see features of myself displayed in this new human life. In these tender moments, I often wonder if God feels the same way about us.

I have always understood the basics of God’s love for humanity. Like the Psalmist who proclaims, “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…when I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.” The disciple Matthew claims that God knows every fiber of our being; even down to every hair on our head. In the midst of our adult reasoning, we tend to forget perhaps the most important role of the Creator in our lives. God is in fact Creator, Sustainer, Comforter and Peace. God is also Heavenly Parent. Made in the image of God, indeed we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

With the physical winds of seasonal change, may we feel the closeness of God’s parenting touch. May we allow God’s spirit to make contact with our busied lives and invite the Holy to share with us tender moments. May we sense an intimacy with our Creator that we have yet to experience. If we find a moment or two to pause, I just bet our Heavenly Mother has a story to tell and a few verses of life’s greatest song to sing to us.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Little Things

I met Neema in April on a scouting trip in Tanzania. I work with an amazingly agile south Alabama church that asked me to take them on an international journey. Once I met Neema, and the village where she ministers, I knew we had our destination.

Mutually beneficial partnerships are important to me. I didn’t want to impose what I thought the village of Kidete needed onto an unsuspecting group that was too hospitable to tell me otherwise. In April, I asked Neema questions about women’s reproductive health.
What are some pressing needs of women in Kidete?
Where do the women in the village deliver their babies?
How do women in the village handle their monthly periods?
Do women in Kidete wear underwear?

I already knew that the overwhelming majority of women in the area lived on less than $1 per day and that sanitary napkins were a luxury item that most women could not afford. Neema told me that women in the village didn’t wear panties. Without panties, how would a standard 21st century sanitary napkin be of use to them? There was no garbage pick up in the village. Sustainability was key.

I returned home with a plan and the women of Elba got busy crafting re-usable sanitary napkins. We decided to call them Kidete Couture, which, in my opinion, is the hip name they deserve. 200 were made and enthusiastically transported to Tanzania by our group that visited this past summer.

The items were distributed one afternoon. Listening through an interpreter, we heard Neema explain the couture. The women’s applause needed no translation. I was overwhelmed by their gratitude.

Sitting with the women in the village, Neema told us that it is often the big issues groups attempt to tackle. She was thankful for large gifts, but she said, “Sometimes it is the little things that make a huge difference.”

Neema’s comment about the little things stays with me. I wonder how the women are doing and what other needs they have. I think about the lessons I could learn from the women of Kidete and how my life is better because I know them.

What are the “little things” for the women of Elba? They don’t need sanitary napkins or running water, but what do they need?

What are the little things for the women in your “village”?

Today my little thing isn’t tangible. Today my little thing is encouragement as I navigate uncertainty.
What are your little things? I really want to know.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Honestly I Do Not

Paige is a long time friend with whom I usually resonate on issues pertaining to politics and human rights. For some reason, tonight, that all changed. We were discussing the back to back primaries in our country and all the hullabaloo in regards to the Republican VP choice, Sarah Palin. Out of the blue Paige said to me, "I think she should have stayed home for a year of maternity leave." Then she said, "Just how does she expect to run the country breast feeding a baby?"

Outraged does not adequately express how I felt. "Did you really just say, 'How does she expect to run the country and breast feed a baby?' Paige, now you are scaring me," I said. Suddenly I found myself in the middle of a diatribe about a dear friend, with whom I share this blog, who just last week led an entire week of Vacation Bible School in between morning and afternoon feedings. She also preaches and plans worship services.

If it is said that a woman should not be Vice President if she is breast feeding her child, is it also being said that a woman should not be VP when she is pregnant? Would that kind of logic lead to a ban on women in the West Wing of the White House during their reproductive years? Why would it ever be anyone but Sarah Palin's right to choose whether or not she breast feeds her baby?

When I asked Paige why she didn't think Gov. Palin could be VP and breast feed her baby at the same time she said, "Oh, come on. You know." Honestly, I do not.