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We could have even done more repair work on Marie's home which sorely needs it. But our wise treasurer thought building Marie a chicken coop was the best thing to do and she was right.
Our community met Marie in the summer of 2012 when our team insulated and replaced a ceiling in her home. We all feel instantly in love. It was easy to do. We were quickly encircled in her gratitude and hospitality.
There are objects all over Marie’s home that reveal her nature: bird feeders, pictures of children, grandchildren, great nieces, handmade objects, baby dolls, and the most telling—a toy once enjoyed by a grandson who died. Marie has lived a life full of great sadness and great love. She has raised a gaggle of children, not all biologically hers, and with such love has come sorrow. She is honest about her heart break and free with her love. Her husbands have disappointed her, but she continues to live in the world as one who trusts love is the only answer.
How could we not have fallen in love with Marie?
Last year after installing a skirt around her trailer and painting the back of her home we had a lazy afternoon before us, talking with Marie about her farm. She had lost her coop in a fire and now only had a few chickens strolling around her yard. One of these chickens, a rooster, had a comb splattered with white paint from our children’s wild painting job. Marie was tickled pink at the sight. She enjoyed even more watching our children play in her field, exploring the nooks and crannies of her beautiful farm.
Not too long after I was called aside by the treasurer in our community. Knowing the numbers, she was happy to report we had a surplus in our mission trip account. What if we hired someone to build a coop for Marie to house her chickens? It didn’t take long for the “official” leaders in our community (note: that is pretty much all the adults) to agree that this would be the best way to spend our surplus. By October, Marie had a coop. Last winter she wrote us twice to report on her snug chickens and the joy they brought her was evident on the lined page.
I once read an article entitled Bread and Roses. Although I cannot remember the details of the article, the title has forever informed my thinking about those who Jesus calls the least among us. The author of the article argued (more articulately than I ever can) that the poor need both bread and roses. We could have made sure Marie’s oil tank was full for the winter, paid her electric bill, or filled her pantry. We could have even done more repair work on Marie’s home which sorely needs it. But our wise treasurer thought building Marie a chicken coop was the best thing to do and she was right. Marie, like all of us, needs bread and roses. Her new chicken coop is, I am sure, more beautiful to her than a vase of long stem roses. And there is no question that is has brought her great joy.
We’re going to see Marie in a few short days. We are eager to see her new coop and meet her new chickens. Hopefully her roosters white painted comb has worn off. I am sure Marie will encircle us in love and her natural hospitality. But I wonder what roses we might offer her this year. I wonder what roses we all need in our lives, beyond daily bread, that remind us that love is always worth the risk of heartache.
I have been challenged this past year to be more creative instead of reactionary. In other words: turn my critical thinking into creative opportunity. As a result, instead of ranting to everyone about the flawed hallmark-philosophy of mother’s day (see my other blogs on motherhood to learn just why I hate mother’s day) this year I decided to create an alternative holiday: International Great Women’s Day. On this day (which I think should coincide with my birthday—yes, I clearly have delusional ideas of self-importance) I, along with the women at Grace Community, invited the great women in our lives to a gathering.
This gathering of great women on the very first international great women’s day was life-giving to a hater of mother’s day such as myself. To have that many remarkable women in one place, whose journey’s were varied and beautiful, invited the Spirit to move among us in unexpected and powerful ways.
During the gathering, I spoke a litany. Although it is specific to the women gathered that evening, I believe it is also universal.
Happy International Great Women’s Day.
Litany Shared at the First International Great Women’s Day
May 2014, Walpole, Massachusetts
The women gathered here this night are diverse:
We are gay, straight, trans, sworn off relationships, and one has sworn she is a-sexual.
Some of us have bought a vibrator for the first time and other’s us of have discovered a sexual intimacy we did not know possible.
We are Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Post-Christian, Jewish, Hindu-Christian, Buddhist-Christian, Atheist, Neither, allergic to organized religion, still searching, and more.
We are single, married, partnered, living in homes, apartments and with friends.
We have finished PhDs, GEDs, research projects, and written college essays for the first time.
We have followed the corporate flow and refused to do something conventional.
Some of us have closed our studio spaces and others us of have taken out business loans.
We have new exciting jobs, old jobs we love, and jobs we hate, but must work.
We have applied for new jobs, been rejected, hired, received tenure, and failed by other’s standards.
Some of us are more financially secure than we have ever been in our lives and some of us are broke. But we have all been generous.
Always we have weathered the joys and storms of relationships.
It has been a year of broken relationships and a year of healing: we have filed for divorced and discovered new love. We have made new lifelong friends and ended other friendships. We have refused to be anyone but who we are and at other times caved to make peace.
Through it all we have been grateful for all those who love us because we are exactly who we are.
We have survived: cancer, abuse, rounds of IVF treatments, depression, broken ankles and broken hearts.
Some of us have cared for aging parents and some of our parents have cared for us.
We have all gained weight and lost weight. And some of us have lost over 100 pounds.
Some of us have conquered addiction while others of us have confronted those with an addiction.
We have organized fundraisers, walked, biked, written our political leaders, donated organs and platelets and blood and volunteered everywhere.
We have buried parents and best friends.
Some of us have mothered full time and some of us have mothered from afar.
We are mothers of children with special needs, autism, dyslexia, and depression and mothers to children who do not live in our homes.
Some of us have chosen to remain childless and while others have wept over the children we have not born.
We have birthed and sent our children to prom and watched them graduate from college.
Some of our children have gotten engaged and others have failed physics.
We have changed diapers and dressings, nursed concussions and yelled at our children for coming home drunk.
Some of our adult children have disappointed us with their immature behavior and some have left us speechless with their acts of kindness and wisdom. Others of us have been shocked by how disappointing motherhood has been, while others of us have been thankful for our role as Aunts.
We have sewed, laughed, prayers, cried.
We have fed, grocery shopped, washed dishes, folded laundry, and some of us have quit and invited someone else to do it for a change. Others of us have folded laundry for our friends while still others of us are hired to clean up after families that are not our own.
We are all powerful in our quiet or loud ways.
And we have all loved to all our hearts have ached.
We have held on.
We are great women.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.