Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.– Mary Oliver
I get to turn 40 in a few days. I am not completely sure how I feel about the number, but I am so thankful for the life I am getting to live, for my family and the global community I get to live it with, and for another year (even if it sounds kind of old).
Ralph Waldo Emerson writes: “Within, I do find wrinkles and used heart, but unspent youth.” When I reflect upon my years, unlike Emerson, I have few regrets about the way my youth has been spent. Along the way, I have made “good choices” and “bad choices”(this is the language I use with my sweet and sassy five year old who wants, in her words: “to start training to be in charge.”) I have been on a journey that has taken me around the world and back, and the God who I love has been so generous and kind, allowing me to dream many dreams. He has also expanded my heart and put tenderness within me that is teaching me, day by day, to love the person right in front of me. God has made it possible “to pursue wholeness but also to deal with brokenness” in ways that I don’t have words to adequately describe.
A few months ago, I heard a word in the night. It felt like an invitation: the word was ‘enjoy.’ Maybe it was a message from God, certainly it was an important reminder to slow down and embrace all that He has graciously given. My days are more than a culmination of tasks and “to do” lists. There are so many things worth noticing and enjoying. While Dallas Willard didn’t say these words to me directly, I read them as though he did: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Pay attention. Be astonished. (Enjoy.) Tell about it.
So, here are a few highlights from my attempt to ‘tell about it,’ in no particular order…
- Geoffrey. He sings “this little light of mine – I’m gonna let it shine” with so much joy and gusto. He uses his pointer finger from his left hand to be the light, and boy does it shine. Geoffrey currently says he has seven mamas, and I am privileged to be one of them. Randomly, he will say: “Mama Ella, you’re the best Mama Ella.” “Oh, thank you Geoffrey.”
- Birds. I don’t know their names and cannot describe them like an avid “birder,” but I notice their beauty as I walk along the dirt paths which fill my neighborhood. I wake up in the morning to the sound of their singing and am reminded that if God takes care of the birds, He will also take care of me and all that I love!
- Sharon. I miss her while she is in boarding school, even if she is just next door. I love the place she fills in my heart. Her beauty, artwork, desire and determination to learn, and the wonderful ways she dances are a few of the things I love about her. It is still hard to comprehend that she, Geoffrey & Ryan all share the same DNA – 100%. What an indescribable gift she gave her brothers.
- My parents and siblings. They are such gifts to my life. Kind and funny, they hold the stories and memories of my childhood and youth. Remarkably, there has not been a single day when I have not known that I am loved by them.
- Living Room. Dreams, in big and small ways, are becoming reality. I am in awe. The vision of creating a community of compassion is being realized. For all of Living Room’s partners, workers and friends, I am so grateful they have chosen to be a part of this story.
- Titus. His love for me and for our kids is everything I ever hoped for.
- Chocolate. Raspberries. Cheese & bread. Running. Sleep. Music Reading and writing. These are a few of my favorite things.
- Ryan. Everyone should be allowed to hear him laugh – his giggles fill our home with so much joy! Saying ‘yes,’ nearly three years ago, to the tiny baby in the pink blanket was among the best decisions I will ever make in my life. Oh, it has been a journey that has required great courage and tenacity – one that, for the love of him, I would choose again! And again. And again.
- Community. As my good friend Christian says: “people are the wealth.” My community reaches far and wide but also deep; both in Kenya, the States and beyond. Nearly 15 years ago, I moved to Kenya with two suitcases containing all of my earthly possessions. A village welcomed me to do life with them. Their hospitality has been a rare and wonderful gift which has also served as an extended learning opportunity in what it means to “love your neighbor.” This schooling was extended even further in 2017 when friends in Los Angeles welcomed my family (7 of us) to “just come and stay – we’ll figure it out” while our kids had bone marrow transplants. Their invitation allowed us to be roommates for 477 days. Let’s just say – the wealth of friends and family have shaped my life.
- Ella. Her voice is loud, and you never have to wonder what she is feeling. I have grown to love this so much about her. Her heart is equally big and her will is strong. I believe all of this, if well directed (God, help us!), is going to serve her in this life. She is a world changer, twirling her way through the village in her “swimming costume”- her daily “go to” in fashion. An explorer through and through, Ella’s most recent “when you grow up, what will you be?” goal is to become a professional tree climber; and more specifically, a “mapera” (guava) tree climber. And when she wants to celebrate, her face lights up as she she yells: “Kooray, Kooray!,” instead of hooray. It is wonderful – please don’t correct.
In the words of my dear friend who left us for heaven this week: “Dear Jesus, I want to offer You my life, and this is what I have to give.” May I pay attention. Be astonished. (Enjoy. Yell “Kooray”!) And learn to tell about it.