erin f. wasinger

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

Tag: Year of Small Things (Page 1 of 2)

Why I learned to talk about depression in public

Of all the chapters in The Year of Small Things, the hardest to write was about self-care. For one, pretending you’re Dorothy Day feels good; prophetic, even. Talking about depression doesn’t.

 

But. It’s important to talk about with other people if only because it shouldn’t be awkward. Vulnerability was the posture I wrote from, and now that people are seeing the stuff on the soft underbelly (I’ve had three children, what do you want from me), people have felt compelled to share their own mental junk.

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5 ways to share Year of Small Things love

The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos, Jan. 31) will soon emerge from its cocoon and go out into the world, and to do that takes a lot of brain space.

So do snow days and three-day weekends with children. The Midwest … it’s a tricky thing, you know.

In the days before the book releases, though, there are some ways you can help spread the word about it.

  1. Listen to the Small Things podcast & share away! This week, we interviewed Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, whose book The Wisdom of Stability was influential in Sarah’s and my first conversations.

2. Join and/ or invite others to like our Facebook group for the book. We’ll use the space to communicate with readers and keep everyone up to date on book news.

3. Post photos on Instagram, Facebook, and/ or Twitter and use the hashtag #yearofsmallthings. If you need help coming up with ideas for things to take pictures of, here are some prompts.

4. Join our home church, Sycamore Creek in Lansing and Potterville, Michigan, during our upcoming sermon series on The Year of Small Things. Sarah and I — plus other members of our church’s teaching team — will be talking about key themes from the book and how you can start to see big changes from your small things.

5. Stop by www.yearofsmallthings.com for more inspiration, shareables, and posts unique to that project. We’re geeked to invite y’all on this adventure! Thanks for your prayers, support, and chocolate (in advance?). This is meant to start conversations within and outside the church with individuals and small tribes of friends and framily. Your sharing our words brings the conversation to more folks — and that’s a wonderful thing.

Social justice for ‘the rest of us’

On the way to their town house’s parking lot we smile at each other, quietly, nervously.

You’ve never driven a car, I ask.

No, she says.

Not even once? I ask.

No, she says.

I decide to start in an empty parking lot somewhere; I mention this but I’m unsure if she comprehends. So I drive us to an elementary school on this gray Saturday afternoon.

I wonder often about the limits of our refugees-turned-friends’ current command of English. How do they worry over the way America’s divided about Islam and refugees? How do they react when they hear the voice of our next president?

I’ve not known them long enough to talk politics — actually, that’s not totally true. I guess I just don’t want to have to explain. But of course our friends must understand the tone if not the content of the arguments America’s making among its people. Anger renders our air toxic. We breathe it without choice.

Our friends wouldn’t have asked for it. During the two-year screening process, they only know they want out. I think of that. My friend didn’t know six months ago that she’d be in some American’s (Cheez-Its-scented) minivan doing laps around a parking lot. She didn’t know she was pregnant then. She’s due on my middle daughter’s birthday. She’ll be 34 then, just like me.

They worship at a mosque that received that insipid letter reminding them that terror’s here, too. The letter cheered that Trump’s presidency means what happened to Jews under Hitler will happen to American Muslims under Trump. (Do we not remember? There is nothing new under the sun.) The letter stirred up cries for solidarity and a new feeling of helplessness. Now we’re praying/ wringing our hands/ sending donations to Aleppo.

I hate helplessness. 

I want to do something, to march somewhere, to go somewhere. But here I am. I am the rest of us: the ones who want to be radical but … aren’t. Kids in school, jobs, bills. Classroom holiday parties and we’re out of milk and there’s blue toothpaste all over the bathroom wall — HOW. I WILL KEEP ASKING UNTIL I GET AN ANSWER.

So our family does smaller, such as the small thing of teaching someone to drive.

She’s now behind the wheel. Seat belt on. Feet exploring. She finds the pedal on the left. “Brake?”

“Yes, that’s stop.”

“And — this one?”

“That’s the accelerator. It makes you go.” I charade that.

I learned to drive on country roads when I was 14. My uncle, his daughter, and I took turns behind the wheel of a tiny Dodge, learning the art of accelerating and braking. I think she could use some stretch of country road.

“Now, we’ll go straight” — I motion in the passenger seat like an air traffic controller — “and then we’ll turn.”

“Ahh huh.” She revs it; I put it in gear.

“You push it down slowly. Slowly,” I say, first motioning with my hand, pivoting from my palm. When I realize I’m asking her to catch my words and my symbols, I point to my foot and mime how slowly to push the pedal.

“OK, OK,” she says: and then she does. But now she punches it to the floor and we lurch toward a strip of grass between the lot and a basketball court.  I nicely yell “Brake, brake, brake, BRAKE.” And she finds it. Only the seat belts and Jesus hold us back as we stop.

And we laugh like my girls do when we flip them upside-down — how divine to laugh when all the world is yelling.  

We didn't practice at night, but isn't this pretty anyway?

We didn’t practice at night, but isn’t this pretty anyway?

We practice in that elementary school parking lot for a half hour, going forward and reversing, driving in the pick-up lane. She speaks in Arabic to herself, or maybe to me, thinking like we all do that if we only keep repeating our foreign words (maybe slower, maybe louder), eventually enlightenment and understanding will dawn on our companions.

“More, or are you ready to be done?”

“Stop,” she says, motioning the way umpires call runners safe.  

She notices the school sign. “Yes, that might be the school your kids go to if you live over here when they are 4 years old.”

“Four?” She has the same look as if she’d discovered a $50 bill in her pocket. She giggle-dances just as I did when my youngest started preschool. How divine to laugh when all the world is yelling.  

At her house, I defend her as her husband jokes through Dave: “Is my wife good at driving or hopeless?” Her husband and Dave have learned to clarify what they’re saying to each other using Google Translate. We laugh. And the kids do, to, as they hear Mom drove. They’re in on the joke.   

How divine to laugh when all the world is yelling.

That’s part of our upside-down response, friends. 

Some of us will resist hatred and fear in front of state government representatives and with our congressmen and -women. Some of us will write letters, will march, will carry signs, will go there.

Some of us will drive around a school parking lot.

The lucky might get to do a little of everything. None of us can do it all. So, together we’ll do it all. Because we’re upside-down people. We can yell, but we know it’s divine to laugh.

{Part 2 of 2.}

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.

 

Advice for those discouraged by the election

Dave, Louisa, and I climbed a few uneven cement steps to the door of a stranger. Knocked.

A woman wearing a beautiful teal scarf on her head answered the door with a confused expression. It’s hard to convey “we’re here to mentor you” with someone who doesn’t speak English.

Pause.

For those of you who woke up Wednesday discouraged, consider this moment. Think about what we as hopeful visionaries, Jesus followers, and do-gooders have gained, even in our disappointment.

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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.

Bonus post: ‘The Year of Small Things’ cover

Of my four children (stay with me), two are at school. One is eating Froot Loops. The other …

Is on Amazon.

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