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Without Fail

Without fail, everyday failure floats to the forefront of my frontal lobe.

Without fail, everyday I fail.

(Even now I am doubting the function of the frontal lobe and considering erasing that line because, though it’s fun alliteration, it might not be “right.” This is interpreted in my crazy cranium as failure. But I’m gonna let it sit there.)

I’m gonna let it sit there because I am becoming more familiar with failure. And when you get more familiar with something, or someone, you get up close and can see bits you never noticed before. I’ve begun to see the beautiful causality of failure.

To embrace the beauty that results as a cause of failure is to accept imperfection. When one is a recovering perfectionist, such as myself, one strives to attain the all-allusive state of perfection. One is deceived by the high that is produced by the hit of the “try.” One more hit, and that will satiate my craving. It’s every addict’s justification. One more “try,” and everything will be “just right.”

But it’s not. It never is. There’s always that one more thing that needs fixed. So I get another fix and fall into the trying trap. Which is actually a type of failure. Because I fail to see the beauty of imperfection.

The beauty of failure and imperfection begins and ends in the power of connection. Perfection creates a separation and a distance, an otherness. Imperfection unites as a common thread of understanding between all humans, a togetherness.

The beauty of failure is the space created by flaws, which invites a completion from an outside source. When I fail I am forced to rely on others to help me. This open door is a welcoming energy. It’s a beautiful thing to be the kind of attractive that attracts the kindness and love of others.

The beauty of failure is that I am stripped of status. Status encumbers, trips and splats the untouchable perfect person flat on their face. When I am no longer encumbered by that perfection, I can finally be good. Or at least good enough. Which really is enough.

Good, better, best? Let’s put that to rest. Because good is enough, and enough is best.

I fear I fail my kids every day. I fear I fail at my job, with my finances, with my house keeping, in my paperwork, and the list goes on. (I fear I’ve failed at including some important thing on that list just now. Gah!)

My marriage failed. Yes. It did. Was that my intent? No. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Man, did I ever try to make that thing work. Is this judgement from some celestial deity in the form of castigating punishment for some ambiguous badness? That really was what I used to think. It’s that kind of thinking that gets me craving a hit of “try” for my next high, so that I can “try” and stop feeling so bad. But it doesn’t work. Never does.

Maybe the big feelings (that I used to call bad feelings) are okay, after all. We are human. We are feeling beings. And I’m learning that feeling on a grand scale is quite beautiful, without fail.

Angie Lynn Washington

The beauty of a rainbow is created by fractured light. Light that failed to keep it together.

Rainbows

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Single Mother

How does one become a single mother? One may birth a child and not be espoused at the time. One may adopt, without being married. An unmarried aunt may raise her brother or sister’s children in the event of a tragedy. Widowhood is another way. Divorce another. The one I find myself in could be described as estrangement. Abandonment? Yes, somewhat. Separation; more so. He moved out the Saturday night before Easter ’16. A dark night when his misdeeds of unfaithfulness came to light. He didn’t fight. He left. And hasn’t returned. He visits the kids twice a week. He pays his part of the bills to help with the costs of five kids. The children live with me. I am a single mother.

Angie Lynn Washington

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I’m Keeping My Name

I’m keeping it.

For more of my life than not I have held this name; or it’s held me. It’s the name my sisters sang to tease me when we were young. Pragmatically speaking, changing documents would be a hassle. Aside from that, my children all have that presidential surname. We’re keeping it.

I was asked to decide. I did. It’s mine.

I’m keeping my name.

Angie Lynn Washington.

(However, the signature will be undergoing a design upgrade. That thing is a mess.)

Book Club ‘Free of Charge’ – Prelude and Chapter 1

free of charge

Prelude: The Rose
Ch 1. God the Giver

Miroslav Volf begins this book about “giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of grace” by telling a moving true story of adoption. He speaks of a change in his heart when the birth mom of his oldest son gives him and his wife the gift of her child. Adoption has turned my life upside down, too. My path was not paved, as the author’s, with infertility. Yet I can relate deeply with the questions of faith, prayer, and God’s character with which he wrestled.

After his own story he moves into a classic story called The Little Prince. He speaks of the Rose the Little Prince cares for.

“”People where you live,” the little prince said to his pilot friend, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for… And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose…” And he added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.””

He expounds on the concept with the following lines:

“For the heart to see rightly, the hand needs to give generously. That’s the deeper wisdom the little prince goes on to reveal.”

The initial reason I felt compelled to read this book was the suddenly realization that my personal assumptions regarding reciprocity in relationships may be erroneous and damaging. Growing in generosity, I feel, will combat previous tendencies and lead me into a greatly needed freedom.

The first chapter brings up two common ways we relate with God. One way is to view God as a Negotiator. The other is to treat God like Santa Claus.

When we negotiate with God we wrongfully assume that we have anything to offer the God who made everything and therefore has everything. We insult God when we tell him we will give him such-and-such if He will do such-and-such for us. This is also played out when we feel an obligation to repay God for His goodness with some sort of offering or sacrifice.

This is challenging for me. Just the other day a friend said she wanted to offer her services as a dentist to us free of charge and I insisted that I needed to pay her or at least give her something for her generosity. She sounded hurt. She just wanted to give me something because she wanted to be generous. This is the same thing I do with God sometimes. I see that He has been good to me so I then feel obligated to pray longer, read more of the bible, or behave better. All the while God wants to give to me just because He is good. Anything I would try to offer Him by way of time or resources has already been given to me as a gift. Attempting to give it back to Him is actually unkind and ungrateful.

The other tendency is to treat God as a Santa Claus, demanding nothing from us.

“A divine Santa is the indiscriminately giving and inexhaustible fertile source of everything that is, and everything that is to come our way. God is an inexhaustibly fertile source of everything. But is it true that God demands nothing?”

Such a great question! At first I wanted to revolt and say, “Wait, you just spent many pages convincing us that God gives out of the generosity of His heart. Now you want to turn the tables and tell us that these gifts were not given freely?” These thoughts urged me to read the rest of the chapter.

At this point I would love to include large chucks of the writing to help you see the beautiful pattern of thought. By a close look at the end of Romans chapter 11 and the beginning of Romans chapter 12 we see God the giver obliging a response from us. Volf introduces us to a bridge:

“What then is this sacrifice that is neither a gift nor a counter-gift to God? To what do God’s gifts oblige us and why? Let’s explore these questions step by step, starting seemingly from afar. As we proceed, a contour of a bridge between our selfishness and our God-based giving will emerge.”

The bridge:

Faith – “… we are not independent of God but are living on a given breath. … To receive from God in faith is the height of human dignity. … faith doesn’t tell us how little we are and what we can’t do. On the contrary, it celebrates what we most properly are – God’s empowered creatures – and it frees us to our greatest accomplishments.”

Gratitude – “Faith receives God’s gifts as gifts; gratitude receives them well. … God’s gifts establish. They come with the message, “You are loved, and therefore you exist.””

Availability – “We can’t give anything back to God, not even ourselves, since we were never our own in the first place. We live and breathe and have our being in God. The most we can do is to make ourselves available for God to be used as instruments. … Today most of us want to be agents, not instruments. We want to act, not be acted upon…”

Participation – “Our giving is, as it were, an echo of his. That’s where the idea of the “indwelling Christ” comes in. … Christ’s indwelling presence has freed us from exclusive orientation to ourselves and opened us up in two directions: towards God, to receive the good things in faith, and toward our neighbor, to pass them on in love.”

The closing line of this chapter excites me and frees me to revel in the gifts God gives and freely give to those around me.

“When a gift is given, life becomes extraordinary because God’s own gift giving flows through the giver.”

———-

If you are a part of this online book club I would love to hear your thoughts. Why not add your favorite quotes on the facebook page? Or you could comment after this blog, however extensively or succinctly you care to, about how the beginning of this book has impacted you. If you have a blog of your own you could write there and share the link here in the comments or on facebook.

The idea is to finish reading this book together by the end of February so that we can stay focused on the ideas being presented and not become forgetful by stringing out the reading. I brought this to a public format to keep me accountable to grow because I really feel like these ideas are important for my life at this time. Thanks for reading my blog, even if you are not reading the book. I hope that some of what you have seen here today has been encouraging and brought freedom to you.

Peace.

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Book Club ‘Free of Charge’

free of charge

Wanna join a Book Club? We will be reading ‘Free of Charge’ by Miroslav Volf. Participation is simple.

1. Get the book.

2. Read it.

3. Share.

The idea is to read all 6 chapters in the next two weeks, from now until the end of February. Intermittently you can share your insights, quotes, and personal experiences with the others in the book club. There are few ways you can share. I will be posting on my blog and on the facebook group created for this club. You may write on your own blog and share the link in the comments on my blog or on the facebook page. Or you can share your thoughts directly on the facebook group. You can even do short vlogs and share the links, if you like.

Facebook group link: Free of Charge Book Club

The book can be found here on Amazon: ‘Free of Charge’ by: Miroslav Volf

Sometimes growth in community is richer and creates a greater impact in our lives. I need this to impact me deeply to shake up some recently discovered assumptions that may be damaging some of my relationships. I want to grow and morph into who God has made me to be. I see this books as a tool in that discovery. I look forward to interacting with those who choose to read this book along with me.

Let me know if you will be joining us.

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Dolphins and Counseling

For years I held a conscious disregard for those who required help from a professional counselor. I made assumptions that this practice was evidence of a lack of faith or the inability to find the answers for life’s hard issues through bible study or prayer. I have a hunch where these thoughts originated and how they were formulated.

Within the last year all that can be evaluated has been. The process continues with many changes taking place in our life. My views on receiving counseling were challenged; then they were obliterated completely. I now think that getting help from a counselor can be of great assistance. I say this because I am meeting with a counselor on a weekly basis through Skype.

I am very grateful for the help she is giving me. On A Life Overseas I talk about one of the chats she and I had. Read more here:

“Sink and a Dolphin Will Catch You”

A Life Overseas Header

Be encouraged.

Peace.

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Kidnapping Averted

Can it be called kidnapping if the child begs you to pick her up and then points to your vehicle once she is in your arms? If when you ask her where her ‘madre’ is and she shakes her head as she tries to win you over with her smile? If when you put her down she goes to your friend and starts the same thing all over again with the arms, the smile, and the pointing?

When teams come from another country to spend a week or so helping in Bolivia we sometimes have a cultural immersion experience following the orientation.

SPOILER ALERT… if you have not yet come on a trip with a team, but are planning to, this will spoil a very cool surprise. [I know, that just makes you want to read it more :) ]

So we take the group to the Cancha. Cancha is the Spanish word for field. But it is also the name of what is assumed to be the largest market in South America. I estimate 144 city blocks squared. We pair them up and tell them to write down a dictated list of items. Here’s the catch: the list is in Spanish. We give them some Bolivian money and tell them to go buy the things on the list. If it works out right they are forced to personally interact with Bolivian people, in the heart language of the people. Any fears or barriers start to crumble or disintegrate completely. What fun to discover, with the help of kind and patient Bolivian shop owners, what crazy things you can find like: pomelo, goma eva, guantes, pil frut, and un cuaderno. They come back to the bus with a sense of accomplishment and a connection with the Bolivian people that lasts for the whole trip, and hopefully beyond.

Romon, our volunteer coordinator, hosted this experience for this group this time around. We all met up for pizza in the evening and they had a great time retelling what happened with one of the team members.

The pairs dwindled back to the van where Romon and the driver were waiting for them. They showed them their finds with proud smiles. Then one young man cam walking back carrying a child in his arms. Alarmed, Romon went to find out what had happened.

The boy with the kind eyes and winning smile explained. “I was just standing there and this kid reached up her arms for me to pick her up. I looked around for a parent and I was like, okay. So I picked her up. Then I was like, ‘¿Madre?’ because I knew that word in Spanish. And we were like looking around and the kid was shaking her head.”

Romon told him to put her down. He obeyed. She went to the next team member and lifted her arms to be picked up again. Romon shook his head. Then the girl came to Romon with her arms lifted. Romon took her by the hand and started talking with her so that she could show him where she belonged. She wanted to get in the van. She wanted to go with her new friend. He found who she belonged to and returned to the group. From the picture they showed me I would guess she was around seven years old.

We joked around a little bit at the table. Did you not understand one of the items on the list? That was not one of the things we told you to find! So, I guess we need to add a section to the orientation: Child Trafficking and You. Ha ha ha…

Everything turned out okay for the girl and our group. No officials questioned our teenager about the child he was carrying. She returned to safety. Kidnapping averted.

Now I am trying to decide if I should end the blog post. Because I could go into talking about the plight of trafficked children in our country. I could tell you about how this reminded me of the story my parents told about the mother in Haiti who put her child in my mom’s arms and begged her to take the kid home with her to the States. Or I could speak about the deception of poverty that blinds people from true hope and causes them to seek for their worth outside of themselves. I could even talk about how this experience might have been a testament to the kindness that comes from God in the life of this teen which obviously drew this child to his arms. After all, they couldn’t keep the kids away from Jesus when he walked the earth.

You can take from it what you will, and I’ll leave it at that. At least he didn’t bring back a monkey like the team member from a group visiting another missionary friend of ours did. Ha! 

Nature or Nurture, Neat or Not

Any ‘nice’ that you may see in the decor of the Washington home can be attributed to the man of the house. He has an eye for good things. Though I own the truth God made me a ‘creative’, I also know he made me a ‘messy’. Mess doesn’t bother me. Maybe that is why I can live with out losing my mind in a country of relative chaos? Maybe this is why I find joy being surrounded by and interacting with children?

When we were growing up I remember our whole family being invited to dinner. The man showed our family around their tiny house. He took pride in telling us that he had remodeled the kitchen using things he had found in the junk yard. Wonderful! Somehow that kitchen made of junk gave me permission to embrace a less than neat lifestyle.

My mother raised us five kids to know how to clean and organize. She and my dad even worked hard to make the tasks fun and rewarding. So, it’s not that I don’t know how to put things in order. I see some of my friend’s homes and I am reminded of how nice my mother’s house has always looked. I am in awe. That is just not me.

We strive to keep our presentable areas, well, presentable. DaRonn is a huge help. The kids know how to get it looking good for the visitors. But my own space is something very different. Wanna see?

I straightened it up for y’all, too.

I love my creative corner! You can’t see the high dormer windows above the white curtain that let in the sun all day long. You can’t see the details on my peg board of trinkets from precious people. You can’t see the drawers full of paints, sharpies, paper, stickers, and all other means of writing tools. This place inspires me. I hope that you have a place, a corner, a nook, that inspires you to be the true you.

Hey, if you blog or tweet or an facebook, I would love to see your creative space too. Why not post a pic and let me know about it. Thanks!

Also, what are your thoughts on nature and nurture? Does our nature always push through? Can we nurture against nature?

Stitches

Stitches, millions of them, surround us every day. I treasure the stitches on the quilt made for us when we married. Knitted stitches of my kids’ tiny sweaters from Oma repose in the dark on a top shelf at the back of my closet. Industrial nylon stitches keep our britches covered. Stitches can even sow skin back in place; as the nine purplish ‘puntos’ did, leaving a proud scar on my daughter’s foot.

Imagine people are like billions of stitches holding the world together, holding time together by the seams. We poke and pull, loop and turn, all patching our lives overlapping and mismatched. Like a woman holding a hoop away from her face to look with squinting eyes at the work of her hands, every so often we see a glimpse of the whole.

A tiny dot of color, a life so important and full, pulled up through the cloth and laid back down again in the earth which spun it. The stitches line together making shapes of utilitarian nature and forms of beauty.

(Some of the kids who have come and gone from The House of Dreams)

So when the tug turns into fray, and the day turns into sighs, I think of stitches. Dozens of little stitches have poked their way into our lives and we criss-crossed like cross stitch. Some stayed. Others have been taken to new places by the great needle of circumstance.

I look at the picture of some of the faces of kids who lived in The House of Dreams at one time. A few of them are shown wearing the clothes my own children handed down to them. Shared stitches. Shared lives. Like the delicacy of crocheted lace, human fragility invites a gentle touch and a reverence for the One who’s handiwork is seen in the miracle of life.

Great Weaver of the tapestry of grace

Weave us and make something beautiful

My strand of faith

   twists around

       your divine lifeline

Amen

 

5 minutes uncut

We’ll be walking out the door in a few minutes. As I wait for my man to finish applying the emergency measures necessary to save his fish I write. Then we will go pick up our friends for a fun evening celebrating love.

I decided to not cut my child’s hair all off. (Thus the word uncut in the title honoring this afternoon’s choice through gritted teeth.) My eldest daughter asked me this afternoon, “Mama, why are babies so cute?” With the most serious look on my face I told, “I think God made babies cute so that we don’t kill them.” The shock on her face compelled me to explain further. “With as much crap [pardon my French if that word offends you… I use it] as we have to put up with when caring for babies it helps that they are cute to look at so the job’s not as tough.” The look of shock remained.

So now, struck with that truth about myself, I have a pre-schooler to take care of who doesn’t look all that cute, in my opinion.

(My five minutes are up, but I feel like I need to finish my thoughts)

I cringe when I look at her. I know, I earn the bad-mother badge of the century. Helping her, serving her, caring for her just got harder for me. It disgusts me that this would effect med so. That feeling of disgust as I try to force myself to ‘grow’ beyond that, be more mature, whatever, makes it even so much harder.

So we are going to walk out the door. I am grateful for the break. I will come back refreshed. I will come back a little more prepared to care for my child.I’m not kicking her to the curb. I’ll let the hair grow back. I will love her.

That’s what my unedited love looks like today. [Hitting publish without scrolling back up…]