20.02.2013
The Big Reveal: What Faith is, from First to Last
The 1 Thing You Really Have to Know About Your Family

Of Women & Sisters & Family & How You Really Speak Lent

A Holy Experience

So Shalom has this bag made by 3 Cords in Haiti that she carries her shoes and Bible in it to Wednesday night Kids Club, and sometimes a hen or a pig, depending on how the day slants and careens.

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That’s the bag the kid keeps hanging on the first hook inside the back door and that’s the bag she swings over her shoulder like she’s always slinging pure love.

So when the Farmer says if we’re all going to leave the farm for his 40th, that he’d rather it be about giving his life away because it’s no trite proverb that it’s better to give than to receive, and we start praying about where and how and when.

Someone sends the name, Mission of Hope, Haiti. And when it turns out that Mission of Hope, Haiti, is the ministry that runs the 3 Cords that makes the bag that Shalom slings everywhere, Shalom about turns inside out. The kid starts packing.

Malakai tells her no pigs and she sister-glares that she knows that already. Mama packs a hat the size of a small island which may be the protective point. And a sewing machine. She packs that continental hat and a sewing machine that she hauls across two international borders and right through two feet of snow and a Great Lakes blizzard into the furnace heat of Haiti.

Mama’s wears that hat into 3 Cords like she’s some floating glacial berg.

Which about melts when they tell her that they’re keeping her Singer machine to stitch up the first prototypes of all new bags. Hope leans in and whispers, “Isn’t that the material of our bag hanging there on the wall?”

Shalom pats my leg wild, “They made my bag right here?” Continents and snow and oceans evaporate.

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Mama smiles cool and to the point, “Put us to work.”

We fold material and gush over patterns like we’re stacking gold. “Think of the bags!” Hope laughs giddy.

Marie Maude, she takes Mama by the hand over to a barrel of headbands that all need 3 Cord cards tied to them. I watch the directions. Snip the threads. Thread through the hole of the cards. TIe and knot the cards to the bandeaux, the bags, the braided headbands. For hours, we do this, Shalom, Hope, Mama and I, fans swaying over our bents necks. There’s only the sound of sewing machines humming in gilded sunlight. The Haitian women work silently, like in a chapel, worship that only needs hands.

Sometime after the second hour, one of the women points to me, throws a finger toward Mama, and then again, finger flying between us, and I stammer out some miserable French hoping something of it limps into Creole. “Ma mere? Oui, oui, elle est ma Mere.”

The Haitian woman nods, yes, yes, and then rocks one hand like she’s nursing a babe and she points to Mama and mouths it without a sound, Mere, Mere. That’s what she’s doing — she’s signing. She’s deaf and she’s signing. The whole room is silent because all these women are deaf.

Laura, 3 Cords’ intern, she nods, “It’s why we call it The Quiet Room,” she smiles. “Except some are amputees.”

It’s then I notice legs, all these cut off places.

“Amputees who are learning sign language on their own — so they can communicate with the deaf. Two segments of society that have been dismissed as having no value, divorced from society — finding each other.”  And something in this room slings around me pure and loved.

The woman signs me her name, her hand shaping who she is “ADELINE” and I say it again twice, Adeline, Adeline. She points to Hope and signs it again like a nursing.

And I say Oui, oui, then remember to nod, that your body has to live your words, and I try to make flapping hands say it, to enflesh my meaning —  I am Hope’s mother. And Mama is my mother. We are three: Mother, Daughter, Grandaughter. And out of nowhere, Marie Maude flings arms like a homecoming, “Grandmere!”

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And the light falls across scraps being pieced together, across the dismissed and divorced, the cut off and the women who thought they were of no value till they found community, till they found sisters who whispered Jesus and grafted them into the Body and wrapped arms around their stumped and silenced places.

Adeline signs to a woman in a hat on the far side of the room who is cutting and braiding and she signs, JASMINE, and Marie Maude flails animated between Adeline and Jasmine, Sisters, Sisters.

“Sisters? Both deaf?” I turn to Laura.

“I know. What are the chances?” Laura wraps an arm around Adeline. “And Adeline here is the single mom to 5 — four hearing children and one deaf.”

And Adeline beams and if Jesus plus nothing is everything, then real math proves that every single mother is multiplied grace.

“So we’re all family!” And Shalom hugs my leg.

And Adeline hugs Mama and Marie Maude hugs us all and who needs words when you can feel how this kin of sisterhood does something in the marrow of your  bones?

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It was when I had been here in Haiti in the peak blaze of last July, Johnny, our translator with Compassion, he had just told me how he had meandered out of the Hotel Montana when the deeps had roared quaking mad and blasted dust up the nape of his neck.

And I had turned to him and said it like an even madder fool: “What if you could ever just get out of here– get you and your family to the States?”

And he had looked me in the eye, and it’s what he said next that drilled right up my marrow: “I am Moses. I do not leave my kin.”

I am Moses and I do not leave my kin… and it doesn’t matter if you are born in the land of LCD screens and master ensuites and SUVs with leather seats and turkey with cranberries laid out on granite countertops —  When you’re the one who ends up in the palace, you don’t forget your people. Just ask Moses or Esther or Jesus.

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I up and flew home.

I flew home to my hot showers and Tropicana orange juice and kids’ dentist appointments and I could forget. I could forget my kin under tattered blue tarps and insatiably hungry pimps– especially when I was pinning pretty things to virtual boards or scanning Facebook instead of seeking His face and how in the name of heaven, could ever I forget that it. is. all. grace? That Grace alone is the gossamer thread that holds your life together.

That life isn’t made up of atoms — it’s made up of amazing grace.

That it isn’t DNA or SATs or IQ that determine your existence — but His grace alone.

And it was when I closed my eyes to pray — that’s when I would re-member. When I would be put back together and see my kin, my sisters with the sunken eyes, and my brothers with the hopeless gaze, and my Lord with His arms nailed thin across that impossible length of Cross, saying: “When you give a drink of water to them, you give the water to Me.”

Who wants to do something more than give a cup of water to Me?

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And when the calendar had rolled round to Lent, we were sitting around the table reading this and Isaiah’s got words:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,

and not to turn away from your own kin?

~Isa. 58: 6-7

And that verse slams me to a stop:

The fast the Lord chooses? Is not to turn away from your kin.

The fast the Lord chooses is not to turn away from your kin, and I am Moses and I do not leave my kin, and and the bare bottom line is that if you are going to keep company with Jesus, you are going to have to give up keeping up with the Joneses. What could you want more than this?

What could you buy that is worth more than company with Jesus and your kin?

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For hours, Shalom and Hope and Mama and I, our hands tie their names to the work of their hands and we’re knotted, kin that miles can’t divide and distance doesn’t exist in the kingdom of God.

We are sisters and we may be cut off and broken and we may be beaten and we may be voiceless and we may be forgotten, but sisters find hands that speak louder than words and sisters find ways to say what isn’t said and grace is the cosmic language and Christ is the soul translator.

And the fast the Lord wants is to break free free from indifference, and the fast the Lord wants is to break the chains that crush women and children and men, and those chains are in your house and around the corner and around every woman that you meet and around your sisters around the world, and the fast the Lord longs for — is you to hold fast to your kin — because loving your kin is how you love Him.

I am standing in a room full of broken women for whom a broken Savior came. There are no words. Only light. Only hands.

And one of the women, one of our sisters, the tallest one with her dress torn and frayed down the back, she just lays down the cloth for her next bag and she steps into the light and begins to braid Hope’s hair, dark silk hands through all her hair.

It’s always from the frayed and broken edges of ourselves that we can tie heart strings, that we braid our lives into light.

And the two young women are like mirror images of their Father, and you can understand kin loud and clear — Lent is always this language of radical Love.

 

 

 

 

Related:
Day 7 of 40 Days: A Lent of ThanksLoving
Don’t Turn a way from a sister? 3 Cords is a community of amputees and the deaf who make gorgeous bags that you could swing over a shoulder and sling love for a sister (or a a braided headband, bandeaux, or wristlet?) Check our their art that you can carry? And maybe gift one to a sister while loving a sister and we’re all the sisters who speak Lent’s language of Love.
When You are Weary of Watered-Down, Vanilla Christianity {Pt 1: Radical Series}
What Does a bit of Radical Christianity Really Look Like —- Right Where You Are?{Pt 2: Radical Series}
What Radical Christianity Looks Like Right Where You Are{Pt 3: Radical Series}
Why Weak is the New Strong: Radical Right Where You Are{Pt 4: Radical Series}