A lesson for me in embracing the chaos of community…….This morning started early with a visitor before 8am and continued at that pace all day. Yep, I am good and exhausted. To be honest I was feeling overwhelmed and tired and sick of dealing with people’s problems but in the midst of it all I am thankful for the reminder that He is working in the small, in the interruptions, in the seemingly chaotic.
Water has been shut off in our neighborhood which means a non stop stream of folks coming over to do laundry, wash dishes, and carry water home in buckets. We hang out, talk, and kids run around. A relative of a good friend is here from another island and she came over 4 times throughout the day. I think she is just so interested in what the heck I am doing here and had nothing better to do. So we chatted a lot about cooking, fasting, marriage, kids, Jesus, food, and nail polish. She gave me some help in studying my new Kiswahili verbs too and when I noticed her baby had what seemed like a bad infection that resulted in bleeding sores near his ear I asked her about it. When I looked closer I realized they were all over his body so off we went to the hospital. We saw a doctor right away but getting meds during Ramadan proved a bit more interesting especially with the car full of kids who joined us for the trip. But we persevered and got ’em and headed home where more folks were waiting. It was a stream of people and at one point I counted 14 people in our house. It was crazy and I was glad for the excuse to kick everyone out for a bit to walk to get Anni at her bus stop for a moment of quiet. I made the girls lunch, cleaned up, and helped Anni with her homework and off she went to play in her room. I started picking up the family room from the mess that results from too many kids playing in one room and realized that one green hot wheel car was missing from the special set Jason had given Anni. This was not good. I looked around in case it was under a chair but no luck. Then I started to get mad. Which is really lame considering it is a matchbox car but still honestly I was angry. Someone stole it! and on and on my mind tosses around thoughts like “I have done so much for these kids and they stole from me!!” “We share so much with our neighbors and still…..” You know, the self righteous stank face. Yep, that was me. Like I never stole anything in my life (and always had way more than any of these kids). So I informed Anni that it was gone and she was bummed but after we talked about how sharing means sometimes things get broke or lost but it is just stuff (a good reminder for my stank face). We prayed about it and after she said “Mama, God will bring it back.” I tried to prepare her that it might not make it’s way home but she insisted. I told one Mama who came by selling fish about said missing car and she immediately sent over the kids who were playing to look for it. Still no car but word was out. I gave up at that point and realized it was indeed just a hot wheel. Just a hot wheel…..And I cannot only love those who are nice to me, only those who never hurt me, only those who follow my rules. If that is what I am then I cannot be a follower of Jesus. I do not really have love. If I want to love the world and the world steals from me is that a deal breaker? No. It sucks and I may not like it but the cost of sharing life is that it is messy sometimes. It was like God was telling me “suck it up girl.” He does that a lot and it is always good for me. A friend stopped over and told me in a hushed voice about some difficulties she is facing and I asked if I could pray for her. She accepted and we talked more and she helped me start some bread dough until she was called home to do laundry and it was a good reminder that there are bigger issues in the world. It is just a hot wheel…

I got Evy down for a nap and Anni busy with some coloring and I wedged myself on a couple of pillows strewn on the floor of our office/too much crap room and I read and prayed and tried to refocus my day. About 20 minutes later I hear the noise of a small “Hoodi” and Annikah allowing one of my shule students in. I decide just to sit and wait and listen. He came in and returned the missing car with a story about how he found it outside somewhere. It came back! Annikah accpeted it and told him that we prayed and it came back and she thanked him; all in Kiswahili and pretty good Kiswahili I might add. They then started playing together to build blockades and roads with foam blocks, sticks, and old used containers and ram the cars into them. They laughed and played and yelled “imebomoka” (it has been busted!) over and over. I just sat and listened and thought about how good God is. That He allows me to learn from my child. That even in my selfishness and bad attitude He is showing Himself faithful. It was not about the hot wheel it was about me learning again and again that I need to trust and give up my “rights” in order to see His hand at work. That He allows interruptions to be glorious encounters and chances for me to give love and mercy and receive it. For me to grow in understanding about what is really important.

anni and munzir play cars 006.jpgedit

Slowly more kids crept back in to join the fun. Evy woke up and full out chaos abounded once again. Ball playing, jumping rope and a shoe-less gang of watoto running around. Later in the afternoon a few kids brought over “my baby.” She was dropped off in the midst of the chaos and she laid on a big pillow in my kitchen as me and a friend made small bread loaves for the neighbors for the breaking the fast meal. We were interupted every few minutes by a parade of children showing off Miss Annikah who they were dressing up and putting make up on. She was the “Bibi harusi” (bride) and even the boys were pretending to be in on the wedding (well, mostly they were chasing each other on Anni’s scooter and bike). One little boy came in and announced loudly that I now had the work of mopping the floor because a little girl had peed and yes; in fact, there was a puddle on the floor. Amidst the cleaning up, talking, playing, and cooking there was buzz and noise and a hum. Each loaf of bread that came out of the oven was wrapped in newspaper and sent with a child to a neighbor. At the mosque call everyone made their way home and the girls and I ate and hung out. Then baths, story, prayers, and bedtime. My last guest came as I was locking the door for the night. We sat under the stars for a few minutes catching up until I dragged by exhausted self inside.
It occurred to me today that God is really present in community. Even when that community is loud and chaotic and messy. Because sharing life means you will get hurt, you will be sad or frustrated or tired but you also have the opportunity to love people and be salt and light. I needed the reminder today to get out of myself. To embrace life and community where we find it. That He works in these small moments when we share life. These moments are precious; dirty, messy, loud, difficult, crazy but awesome and blessing waiting to be noticed, uncovered, and savored.
  1. Anonymous says:

    I love Anni's faith. How wonderful she can be so unjudgmental. I would find it more difficult to forgive, yet I seek His forgiveness. We can indeed learn much from our children. I learn from mine all the time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good reminder, as I sent the Lee kids home today, completely tired and cranky. I also had to clean up a floor because of not getting to the bathroom on time accident. Thanks for helping me not stay in the grumbles