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Being stuck is exciting.

  • Battlestar Galactica: A few thousand people stuck on a fleet of starships after robots take over the worlds.
  • Ender’s Game: Hundreds of children stuck in a battle school, preparing for an alien invasion.
  • Star Trek: Stuck on a ship.
  • Star Trek Voyager: Really stuck on a ship.
  • Survivor: stuck on an island with other attention-seeking Americans.
  • The Office: stuck in a dead-end job with nut jobs.
  • The Hunt for Red October: stuck in a submarine.
  • Crimson Tide: stuck in a submarine.
  • K-19: The Widowmaker: stuck in a submarine.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: stuck in an asylum.
  • The Poseidon Adventure: stuck in a sinking ship.
  • Moon: stuck in space.
  • Inner Space: stuck in a person.

So, do you have any suggestions for my list?  This is pretty important stuff.

 

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Last year I wrote this little thought when I was thinking about submitting daily devotionals to a popular magazine. I changed my mind, so now I share this with you:

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.

–Zora Neale Hurston

I left the playroom to throw some clothes into the washer. Just steps away from my two-year-old, I listened for her voice as she played with her dollies…

She came home to us from Ethiopia already a toddler, so we have spent every waking moment within a few feet of each other, working on our bond. Mabel has known no other caretaker on this side of the Atlantic, besides my husband and me. We do everything together. Everything. 

Our hearts swell when she chooses to get closer to us, and they collapse when she raises her arms up, asking to be held by strangers. One day at the park, she befriended an older gentleman and his two large dogs. Within moments I was coaxing her out of his lap. More bonding. We need more bonding. So my husband and I don’t go on dates. We don’t hire babysitters. The grandparents aren’t allowed to hold their grandchild yet. We’re bonding.

So today as I was flinging clothes into the washer (Little girls add a LOT of laundry to the household!), I strained to hear her babble. I didn’t hear anything from the playroom so I turned to check on her.  At my feet, I found Mabel.  And two dollies and a blanket.  Curled up next to the washer, just being with me.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

–Mother Theresa


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I love Star Trek. Here are the first 10 reasons that come to mind. Trust me, there are many more.

1. You can face any entire planet with an “away team” of three to five people.

2. The Borg, the greatest enemy known to the Federation, is a bunch of people who think exactly alike and have no individuality.

3. There is a constant, pleasant hum of beeps and whirs in the background of every scene.

4. Diversity of aliens. Inter-alien cooperation. Inter-alien romance.

5. You can make food by telling the computer what you want.

6. There is an endless supply of Shuttlecraft in the cargo bay. They never run out. Count them.

7. You can go see the captain whenever you want.

8. All problems can be isolated to anomalies, tachyon particles, warp core breaches, or someone taking over the computer system.

9. Vulcans, androids, holo-characters. The comic relief.

10. By the time you get through all the hundreds of episodes, they all seem new again.

 

How about you? What do you love/hate about Star Trek?

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I just attended a large group event, a church service. Our speaker spent twenty minutes congratulating us on how open and diverse we all are. How we accept people from all walks of life.

That sounds great. I want to be in that church. A church that truly accepts everyone and values diversity? Sign me up. That just doesn’t happen to be the church I attended today.

I looked around the room and saw very little diversity. No one on staff looks like my kids. No role models for them on stage, in the band, in their classrooms. The majority of speakers, music leaders, announcement givers, pray-ers, all young white men. Until diversity is reflected from the stage, we cannot expect it to be reflected in the  congregation.

Every week I feel less welcome, not more welcome.

Martin Luther King, who wasn’t mentioned in this sermon on diversity and acceptance, used to say that “eleven o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour and Sunday school is still the most segregated school of the week.”

Until this isn’t true, we have little to congratulate ourselves about. There is a lot of work to do.

 

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My mom didn’t have a television as a child. She made weekly trips to the library and devoured dozens of books every month. But she read one book over and over again, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Little Women brought peace and comfort to her little world. Even today my mother loves to relive that story in book and movie form.

In many ways I take after her. But the book that brings me peace and comfort is full of aliens, battle school, bloody fights, and intergalactic war. Sorry, Mom.

Of all the science-fiction, defend-the-planet-from-alien-invader stuff out there, one book is set apart. In the midst of a classic set-up (powerful alien beings are returning to destroy Earth), an author embeds a profound understanding of human nature and a compelling story of redemption.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card tells the story of a boy-genius who becomes the hope of mankind in a war against an alien race that threatens humanity. This is an old story. What distinguishes Card’s version of this archetypal plot is his complex understanding of the inner-workings of people. The dynamics between Ender and his siblings, his teachers, his friends, his enemies, his parents, and the aliens, are so palpable that I must listen to the audio book regularly to soak in all the reality that is in this novel. When I finish a chapter, I have such a grasp of the emotional climate of the scene, that I feel like I could just jump in the book and play a role myself.

Secondly, I am challenged by Card. This book is about war. Orson Scott Card doesn’t let that be simple or easy. The two series that follow Ender’s Game (Ender’s Shadow series, Speaker for the Dead series)  unravel the consequences of war, and I come away from the story with a profound sorrow for the violent wars I see in the world today. Most pulp science-fiction glorifies the technical side of war. Orson Scott Card lets the impact of war cry from the page. These are not gory books. The impact is felt in the soul. War destroys people. I will never see war the same way again.

Nor will I ever see “aliens” the same way again. Book one is about the defeat of the fearful alien race. Speaker for the Dead turns this notion upside-down. Card finds a way to make this cold, empty group of distant aliens appear more human than those who sought to destroy them. I find this to be challenging to my faith and my own ability to love my neighbor. There is always a deeper story to what is going on under the surface.

Thirdly, Ender is a hero that I relate to. Yes, I find myself in this boy-genius who will save everyone. That may expose a dark side of my ego, but it also says something about the writing of this novel. I don’t find myself in Superman or Neo from the Matrix. They are too perfect. Ender is tortured. Ender loves and feels pain. Ender almost suffocates under the pressure to fulfill what he is called to do. Ender kills. I read the book over and over because I am Ender.

FYI:

There are two spin-off series that I mentioned above. I prefer the Ender’s Shadow spin-off series, but most prefer Speaker for the Dead and the books that follow it.

An Ender’s Game movie is in production. These are the ways they could ruin it for me:

1. Cast kids that are too old to play the characters.

2. Emphasize the action of the battle school and battle games instead of what is going on inside the characters. The whole point will be lost if they do this.

3. Add humor. The book is virtually humorless. The kids take themselves very seriously. If they add humor, it will be a Hollywood gimmick. 

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I’ve got streaming radio on right now. Mabel just caught a few words of the latest song.

“Christmas, Mommy! Christmas!”

Seven months ago Mabel joined our family. She spoke Amharic, a beautiful language from her birth country. Unlike many 20-month-olds, she already expressed herself well in her native language. Then we came along.

For the first few days in Ethiopia we heard one phrase over and over again, translated roughly to “Hey you!” Wherever we would go, she would holler “Hey, you!” to strangers. I assume she was trying to find her way back to something familiar. Hey, you! Will you take me back? Rescue me from these strange people! Hey, you! Help!

Today, she can sing her own endless version of Jingle Bells. She recognizes lights, Santa, and snow. A new world has opened up. There are a lot of Christmas words to learn! As a former Spanish teacher, I study her language development like it’s a part time job. Every word and concept she discovers is like a newly discovered country. This is an adventure. But it is also a loss. As she fills her language centers with a new language, another one is slowly slipping away. (But that is another post.)

The milestones have continued steadily for seven months.

In the beginning, she had big thoughts to communicate to us, but didn’t have the words for them:

  • I’m scared.
  • You’re scary.
  • Where’s my home?
  • Where are my nannies?
  • Will you feed me enough?
  • Am I safe?
  • I’m all alone now.

We had big thoughts for her, but didn’t have the words for them:

  • Trust us.
  • We will meet your needs.
  • We are not going anywhere.
  • You are safe.
  • We love you.

And most importantly,

  • I will be right back.
  • This will just take a minute.

Yes, I wanted my daughter to feel loved. Yes, I wanted her to know my unwavering commitment to her, but we quickly discovered that the most powerful concept that we needed to communicate was “We will not abandon you.”

We will be here. Even when you can’t see mommy (because she’s in the shower or taking care of George or taking a nap), she will never leave you. Daddy will come back upstairs. George will come home from school. Nobody is really going anywhere.

The first day that Mabel was in our custody, she started using English words. Her linguistic abilities astounded us. By the time we had our first check-in with the social worker at six weeks, she already had fifty words in her vocabulary. Now we can’t even count them anymore. Many two-year-olds have a dozen or so words, and our daughter can now hold a conversation that lasts for several minutes. But one phrase eluded her for months:

I’ll be right back.

By the time an average child has reached 20 months, she has heard “Mommy will be right back” maybe thousands of times. She may not know exactly what the words mean, but she is comforted by this. She goes into daycare, or nursery, or nap time with that phrase on her lips.

But Mabel had no idea what we were trying to say. And those phrases are abstract. “Be right back?” You can’t draw a picture of that. You have to live it, prove it, be it every day over and over and over. But Mabel just didn’t get it.

For five months of Mabel’s life, bedtime was tragic.

For five months, there would be no childcare outside of mommy and daddy.

For five months, church nursery was impossible.

For five months, Mabel clung to us, afraid to be left behind or abandoned.

Then one day in October something changed. One day she was afraid. The next day she trusted. And it was all about “Mommy be right back.” When she learned that phrase she was able to let go and nap. She was able to let go and have a babysitter. She was able to let go and go to Sunday school. She was able to let go of Mommy and find comfort in Daddy’s arms. It became her mantra.

Going to bed, “Mommy be right back. Daddy be right back, Georgie be right back.”

Going to church, “Mommy be right back. Daddy be right back, Georgie be right back.”

Sending us on a date, “Mommy be right back. Daddy be right back, Georgie be right back.”

I thought “Mommy loves you” or “Mommy cares for you” or “Trust Mommy” would be the most powerful concepts in our attachment arsenal, but for now, it’s “Mommy be right back.”

This Christmas, as Mabel sings carols to us, as her eyes light up when she recognizes Santa Claus in pictures, as she tries to figure out the little people in the manger scene, we are filled with tidings of comfort and joy. For a two-year-old, the Good News is about being safe, wanted, loved, fed, and never far from home.

This Christmas, her first Christmas in English, Mabel knows the Good News: Mommy will always be right back.