Category Archives: Grace

Unexpected Laughter: the tale of a blogger, a Pakistani, & a hot cup of Chai

“It’s been too long.”

More accusations drum in my head:

“I should’ve gone over weeks – MONTHS – ago. What will we talk about anyway? I’m a horrible human being. And a worse neighbor.”

My insecurity is unrelenting. My neighbor is from Pakistan. English isn’t her first language and I’m a fool when I talk to people who don’t speak much English. [I use lots of little words and I nod and smile and pretend I understand them. And I speak way too loudly, as if “can’t speak English” means “CAN’T HEAR.”]

I almost didn’t knock on the door. What happened after I did surprised both of us. But, I package up some homemade granola, grab Molly by the hand, and walk to our next-door-neighbor’s front door before I can change my mind.

“Hi, Uzma! Molly & I baked granola today, and we wanted to share some with you.”

“Hello, Amanda! Please, come inside!” She joyfully looks from me, to Molly, and back to me. [Then slight confusion at the granola. Dang it. She has no idea what granola is. Should’ve gone with cookies. Oh well.]

We walk in and sit at the kitchen table. She stands to offer me a cup of tea. I hesitate, not wanting to be an imposition.

[Also thinking, “WHAT ARE WE GOING TO TALK ABOUT?”]

Uzma stands at the stove, tea kettle at the ready, as the lightbulb goes on in my head: “Get over yourself. You are not an imposition. You are invited. Have a cup of tea and visit with her. YOU CAN DO THIS!”

“Yes,” I hear myself say out loud. “Okay. Yes, I can stay for a cup of tea today. Thank you.”

Delighted, she puts the kettle on.

She pulls cups and saucers from the cabinet and I speak up: “Uzma, I’m sorry that I haven’t said hello in such a long time.”

“It is okay! You are very busy. I understand.” Her kind smile spreads wide: “And you are here now!”

I smile, too. “Yes, I’m so happy to be here now.” And I am.

She serves our tea. We sip. We chat. And this time, rather than nod and smile and pretend to understand, I choose to laugh at myself and admit when I don’t understand – and she laughs too. [There is a lot of laughing.]

Then we find a rhythm: she, eventually finding words; I, eventually recognizing them; both of us, laughing at our combined herculean effort. We stumble through stories of children and family, illness and loss, and back around to daily life.

“Uzma, what do you like to do during the day?”

“Oh, I am very boring here.” With a sheepish laugh, “I watch TV.”

“What do you like on TV?” I brace for a struggle to understand something about a show on Pakistani cable, but am completely disarmed when without a moment’s hesitation, she gleefully declares:

“ELLEN!”

I erupt in laughter. “I love Ellen too!”

In an instant, the language barrier crumbles, the culture gap dissolves, and we gasp with laughter as I attempt a high-five which she receives as a handshake/hold, and we giggle like little girls over our lost-in-translation gestures.

I compose myself to I bring up an urgent matter: “Uzma. I bet Ellen would love to hear that you watch her show. Let’s take a selfie. Do you know what a selfie is?”

Uzma shakes her head no, eyes gleaming. [At this point she appears giddy at the chance to partake in what must be an important American tradition. Perhaps I’m overselling it.]

“I will teach you how to take a selfie. Lean in and smile!”

She’s delighted with our selfie, and I promise to text it to her daughter’s cell phone. And also to Ellen on Twitter.

Uzma loves Ellen!

(Hi, Ellen!)

“Uzma, your tea is delicious. Will you make it again the next time I visit?”

Eyes wide and hands clasped in delight, she says, “You come, I make tea. Every time, I make tea. You will come tomorrow?”

“Yes, I’ll come tomorrow!”

And I do. And she makes tea, and her daughter Zainab joins us. We look at family pictures this time. I ask questions about their family traditions, and we work to understand each other.

And we laugh.

For all our differences, our commonality trumps them all: we’re women. And don’t all women struggle to be understood and to understand? And isn’t the victory in admitting this doesn’t always come easy? And isn’t the joy in laughing at ourselves and taking ourselves lightly and embracing the stumbling and fumbling in it all?

Whether she’s from a different country or a different season of life – just because she feels foreign to you doesn’t mean she’s far from reach. Make the first step. Dive into discomfort and embrace the awkwardness.

Whose door will you knock on today?

Did you know… (One thing your child needs to hear today.)

I switched up our routine last night & ended up saying the one thing my son needed to hear. Truth be told, it was the one thing I needed to hear too. Could you use some encouragement in parenting and in life? Don’t miss this quick read.I have this thing I do every so often as I tuck in each kid at night – and Owen’s reaction has become the funniest. I snuggle him close and say (with great dramatic flair, as if I’ve never said this to him before), “Did you know… if God had lined up allllllllll the baby boys in the whole wide world, and He let me pick anyyyyyyyyy  baby boy to be MY baby boy… do you know who I’d pick?”

He used to grin and excitedly say, “Me!” And I’d squeeze him tight and say, “You! Yes, you. Every time, you.”

Now he’s Too Cool For That, and he cuts me off at “if God lined up…,” rolls his eyes, and says, “I know, I know. You’d pick me.”

The little punk still grins as I finish the story and squeeze the snot out of him anyway.

But last night I felt prompted to change it up a bit. This time, when he interrupted with the eye roll and the grin, I said, “Wait, no. This is a different one. This time, I mean if God came to me right now and lined up alllllllll the boys in the whole wide world and He said, ‘You’ve had your boy for almost seven years. If you’d like to, you can have a do-over.’   – and He let me choose any boy. Do you know what I’d do?”

Owen just looked at me. We’d had a hard day, he and I. I don’t know if he was sure what I’d do, to be honest.

I looked him in the eyes and said, “I would say, ‘No, thank you. I still choose Owen.’ And then God would say, ‘I thought so.'”

Owen grinned extra wide and let me hug him extra tight.

Do you ever wonder if God wishes He could have a do-over with you? Like, sure, Jesus died on the cross for me – but only because He didn’t actually know me yet. He didn’t know what I’d be like. That I’d be in my mid-thirties, still not quite able to get my sh*t together. How many times I’d fail. And fail the same way again. And then find all new ways to fail.

Well let me tell you something. Did you know…

He did know you. He knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb, and He knew you before the earth was created. He didn’t die for you because He didn’t know you well enough to know any better. He died for you because He DID know you and He decided you were WORTH IT.

You are worth it.

Even in His knowing, you are worth it.

Brow lines, belly fat, & broken hearts. (Thoughts about the marks we bear.)

Do you carry marks on your body (or in your heart) from the life you've lived? Me too. (And I’m positive it’s not just us.) Some marks are evidence of joy. Others, the image of pain or regret. Whether your issues are brow lines, belly fat, or a broken heart, this quick read offers a fresh perspective (and a little positive self therapy!).I’ve become somewhat preoccupied with the lines on my face this year.

I’d like to tell you I’m incredibly self-assured, graciously embracing the changes in my skin and my body year after year.

But that would be a lie.

The truth is, I stare at myself for a shameful amount of time. Inches from the mirror, inspecting the changes in my skin, my body. Ruthlessly critiquing my appearance.

Crow’s feet… brow lines… laugh lines… migrating body parts…

Evidence of my aging skin, my aging body.

(As if I know anything about truly aging. I’m 35. I know, when I am 60, 70, 80, I will read this and smack myself.) Look, I’m not trying to be dramatic. I’m just trying to tell the truth.

For the most part, thirty-five feels much younger than I imagined in would ten years ago. It just LOOKS older than I was ready for.

But as I stare myself into a pit of irrational despair, a deeper reality beckons me back up to the light.

These marks? They aren’t merely evidence of age. They are evidence of LIFE.

Crow’s feet from smiling and squinting on a thousand sunny days. Brow lines from poring over countless books, thoughtful conversation, earnest prayer. Laugh lines from… laughing. A body that has changed shape from carrying, birthing, and feeding two babies.

Beauty, depth, laughter, new life.

How could these things not leave their mark?

Why wouldn’t I want them to?

How about you? What marks do you carry? Lines, wrinkles, stretch marks…

While we’re telling the truth, let’s acknowledge that not all the marks we carry were made in joy. We carry marks on our bodies and within our hearts that we would wish away in a minute if we could.

I know mine. You know yours.

God just told me to tell you something. I don’t know who, but one of you reading this needs to know:

Whether your marks were made from something good or something bad, heartwarming or heart wrenching… they are all evidence of LIFE.

You’ve loathed some of these marks, seeing them as evidence of your unworthiness or God’s unfaithfulness.  

But no. These marks? ALL OF THEM. They bear witness to a life LIVED and a life PRESERVED.

Because YOU’RE STILL HERE.

Whatever you’ve been through, whatever you’re going through, and whatever is yet to come: the God of the universe sustains your life. What happened may not be good. But He is good. And He loves you more than you think.

He has preserved your life. That is no accident. You are here for a reason.

 

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