My mother’s journals sat in a box in my garage. They covered 40 years – from soon after she chose to follow Jesus, on our Oregon farm, to living in Israel, Russia and Azerbaijan, working as a linguist and Bible translator. And before she died, she’d asked me to destroy them. “But Mom,” I’d protested, driving her home from one of her many doctor’s appointments during her final months with cancer. “Those are the stories of your life. They are a treasure.”
I turned the page in the biography I was reading to my children about the life of Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary to India in the early 1900s, when I came across a scene that typified what angers so many about the history of Christian missions: a procession of Indian servants carrying a group of British ministers and their wives on sedan chairs. For each missionary (other than Carmichael, who rode horseback), it took eight men to carry each chair.
Like many, I was shocked last week when a painting “Girl With Balloon” by the British street artist Banksy sold for a record $1.4 million at Sotheby’s auction house only to instantly self-destruct. Like many, I’d never heard of the enigmatic artist before his stunt flashed across the world’s news feeds, showing a painting of a girl with a heart shaped balloon slipping through the bottom of its frame and being destroyed by a shredder as a wealthy, art-loving audience looked on.
I laughed. Then I contemplated what it means to live in a world that often values paint and paper more than people, the temporal more than the timeless.
January did not start easy. First came cleaning up after Christmas. Then came the bitter cold. On top of that, my husband, Dana, has been struggling to move a 4-ton, 24-foot shed. Two years ago, when we bought our house, it was sitting in the dirt beside the driveway, sunken in mud. Battered by rain and wind, it had slipped off its insufficient concrete supports. Tearing the shed down and rebuilding would have been easier. But wanting to save money and materials, we hired an excavator to pull the shed into the middle of our driveway and dig out a foundation, which my husband poured in November. So far, it has been a five-month process. Week after week, as I’ve watched Dana struggle to jack up the shed and secure it with sturdy beams, one song has run through my head.
On a whim, I ran a couple loads of laundry, filled the bathtub and topped my largest kettle with even more water last Sunday night just before going to bed. The following morning, like roughly 400-thousand other Mainers, I awoke to the rush of wind and complete darkness. The fierceness of last week’s storm, known as a ‘bomb cyclone’ — and how long my family would be without electricity (six days!) — caught me largely unprepared.