erin f. wasinger

stories of loving our neighbors, discernment, & other hard things

Category: writing (Page 1 of 2)

When ‘radical’ faith looks a lot like the everyday

In July, Sarah and I went to my hometown to speak at the little public library where I worked when I was 14. My mom and stepdad and some of my aunts and cousins and even some strangers packed the tiny room that in the late ’90s was a garage for the village’s EMS.

Someone (unfairly) asked me (in the presence of my mom) whether I’d ever consider moving home, back to the place in Ohio where I’d graduated a decade and a half ago.

“I mean, could you do this sort of thing” — she referenced the new-monastic-like, Year of Small Things, radical-faith thing — “here in a rural place or a small town?”

Well.

Tell me.

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Their story: Teaching players ‘what they’re capable of’

Damber Magar stands in his room surrounded by his sports trophies and academic certificates and diplomas at his home June 20, 2017 in Lansing. Photo by Dave Wasinger

Maybe the most important work of the Lansing Youth Football Club team isn’t what happens on the field.

Sure, soccer matters to the dozen and a half guys on the team. Almost every day the players carpool to Lansing’s Francis Park for two or three hours of practice. Occasionally they scrimmage teams from Grand Rapids. They train for tournaments in Detroit, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

“This (team) is our passion,” said one of the team’s captains, Damber Magar. Like most of the players on this independent soccer team, Damber’s family are Bhutanese and came to Lansing as refugees from Nepal. Damber’s family was resettled through St. Vincent Catholic Charities in 2010.

At a practice this summer, their coach, Bai Lee, was especially working on positions with the boys and young men who’ve been playing the game since they were toddlers. Some of the players are brothers; a few knew each other when they lived in refugee camps, where children would crowd onto fields to play pick-up “football” games. Others practice with the team with little experience but a desire to connect.

“We don’t care if they don’t know how to kick the ball,” laughed Damber. “We will help them. … After a few months, a few years, they start playing well. They can handle themselves when they’re playing with other people. We can see their skills.”

But after practice, he said, “(the captains) try to tell them not about soccer, but about life.”

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Authors event: Small Things are Small-Town Things, too

To welcome someone into your home is to show them what you think’s important. Remember the first friend-date you had as an adult? For mine, I was staging my coffee table with smart books and a candle (I should’ve dusted the dust jackets first for maximum credibility).

Now, you know you’re my friend if you walk into the space now occupied by Lego, library books, and eleven hundred little scraps of paper Louisa tells me are “bookmarks.” (I love you and I can’t keep up with my many, many children, is what my living room says.)

But to welcome someone to your hometown is to show them something deeper, something maybe mitochondrial. Ah yes, I’ve said when I see friends’ hometowns. I can see this place in you. 

So, that’s happening next week at a book event in the place where I graduated, got married, and flee to when I need my mom.

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And finally, it’s spring: where our words have been

“You must be coming to visit me!”

We were halfway around our block when were stopped by a wave from our octogenarian neighbor who lives behind us. We weren’t technically coming to visit, but our walk turned into a tour of her ever-changing garden. look upHer garden is her thing: I notice her from the kitchen window almost every afternoon. She’s out there with a yard waste bag, her gardening gloves, and a wagon of tools.

She’s got tulips that bloom larger than my fist, hostas that could eat my dog. Later will come roses and irises and a whole slew of blooms (which I won’t be able to name thirty seconds after she tells me). She schools the girls: look at this Jacob’s ladder, see primrose, can you spot the faces on the pansies here.

(Meanwhile, I’m just happy the kids haven’t crushed my peony to death with their bodies. Pretty sure someone watered it from a container of bubble mix, too.)

This is our spring: full of neighbors and walks and finally, flowers.

It’s been a busy spring of writing, too, so I’m here to share what we’ve been sharing.

More substance soon. But for now: besides preaching, freelancing for the newspaper, and mowing the neighbors’ yard for petty cash, you can find us — 

You know, Dorothy Day never voted

Dorothy Day — my patron (almost-) saint — was arrested for picketing for the rights of women to vote.

And even after the 19th Amendment passed, Dorothy Day never voted. 

The cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement felt problems weren’t solved by politics, her granddaughter Kate Hennessy writes in The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother (out now from Scribner). It’s really, really hard to remember that this week, isn’t it?

More on that later. For now, I’m still lamenting.

And, conversely, celebrating. (Joy and sorrow are different sides of the same coin. Where did I read that?)

My and Sarah Arthur’s book The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us releases TUESDAY. You’ve gotta stop by yearofsmallthings.com for a roundup of hot giveaway action.

And, to hold you over: I had the chance to interview Kate Hennessy for the Englewood Review of Books. Catch a preview of it, below:

Kate Hennessy – New Dorothy Day Bio [Interview]

 

Peace, friends. There will be peace.

Book update: Year of Small Things trailer

Around my dinner table Wednesday night, we ate tacos and a whole bag of apples between the nine of us, my Year of Small Things people.

Lest you get a false impression of blissful community, consider the details. I had to ask, twice, for children not to sit on each other. My youngest was crying because my middle child insulted one of her stuffed animals. I started to sing the Doxology as our dinner prayer, my voice rising above the din of children pushing, jumping on, falling off, and generally not sitting on their chairs.

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Very new monastic around that blessed table.

But dinner did indeed happen, just as it did last week and will next week. I forget sometimes how strange it is that for the last two-plus years we’ve eaten so many dinners of pasta and tacos and hot dogs with these same people. Every week (barring stomach flu, fevers, and vacations). I have a hard time committing to five-day devotional plans. Yet we committed to this, and dinner still happened. That’s some sort of transformation already.

Before you can think about the other Year of Small Things stuff — such as the oddity of Tom and Sarah knowing our health (financial, spiritual, emotional, physical) — you have to consider the weight of simply showing up during this weekly time. As you’ll soon read in The Year of Small Things (releasing Jan. 31), it’s Jesus first, then this meal making our small things somehow bigger.

Each week we leave and nothing life-changing usually happens. You have to look at the long view to see the impact that kind of friendship: small, incremental changes over time. Small things: that’s the fruit.

To tell you all those small things would be spoiling the big reveal of the book launch, coming up in January.

Whet your appetite in the meantime by clicking over to the Year of Small Things website. You’ll find an incentive to pre-order copies of the book, skim the FAQs about the project, and feed on other behind-the-pages (?) goodies.

But first — the book trailer. (I’m so excited to share this with you, finally!)

Peace to you, friends.

 

My baby: Year of Small Things

Our oldest had colic.

Yes, we tried that remedy. Yes, we tried that other thing your Grandma swore by. People would tell us in the grocery store queue that “it gets better” and “babies with colic turn out to be really amazing people.” Others who saw us clutching books at the library with titles like The Happiest Baby on the Block and 101 Places People Will Never Find You Again would swear their chiropractor nephew could fix ‘er up in no time.

Sociologists call those “well-intended but not helpful attempts to remind parents not to abandon their young.”

I can only tell you colic nearly killed me. Mysteriously, though, I can’t tell you what her cries sounded like: something’s happened with my auditory memory. Now baby smiles are all that register. Here I swore her never-ending shrieks bore so deeply in my brain as to be fatal. Reading through my old blogs from 2008, I want to hug myself. It really does get better, little Erin-zie.

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Turns out I kinda miss holding that little baby in elephant-clad sleepers. She always smelled like baby powder, I think. I wonder if I could soothe her better now that I know her better.

I’m to that forgetful phase now, too, in The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of UsI don’t actually remember the colic, the stress, of writing it. I miss typing those words and, having turned in the absolute last edits, I wonder if I could restate some things better now that I know me better. Writing that book also smelled like baby powder. I think.

Well. Good news: a friend of mine lets me hold her baby so I can have all the good feelings without having a fourth child of my own.

Better news: The conversation about The Year of Small Things also continues at www.yearofsmallthings.com. We’ll be writing about what “radical faith” includes now that our kids are older (and we’re older), and how our love for our communities grows. We’ll have a small-group resource guide, videos of us picking dandelion bouquets (maybe), and more.

This is crucial for me, this ongoing conversation. I’m still evolving. Reading my own book reminded me why I was intrigued by new monasticism in the beginning. This gives us all a place to talk about how we can move from being inspired (and doing nothing with it) to discerning which parts God wants us to do now (and then doing it).

Whoa.

So, join us there. Here.

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