HOME: Somewhere between John Denver and Eminem

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It was midnight sometime B.C.E (Before Children Era) and I was walking the aisles of a nearly empty grocery store at Christmastime in east Dearborn. I had a breakdown in the canned food aisle as I became keenly aware of John Denver’s voice piping through the store…

And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high,
I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky,

You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply,
Rocky Mountain high, Colorado…

Home of 20+ years came rushing back as I imagined a Colorado sunset while selecting a can of beans.  My husband and I were alone in a new city, and our budget allowed us to go home for Christmas only in our dreams.

I didn’t even like John Denver. But in that moment, the power of a song lyric perfectly positioned in time and context stirred something deep in my heart.

There were countless dark days when I wanted to go running back to familiar and safe foods, friendships, traditions, scenery…

Home Sweet Home

It was my chronic leukemia treatments that routed us to the heart of Motown. One by one, each of our miracle Michiganders grounded us here.  Much of our tight budget was reserved for paying off three miracle pregnancies, treatments, and births—no regrets. It meant, though, that our young family of five embraced cozy Christmases in our little Dearborn home.

It was the adventure of diversity in east Dearborn that kept us persevering through grey skies and bone-chillingly cold winters.  It was the landscape of learning to love our neighbors and learning to be loved by them that made home here real.

It was in Motown I had learned about motherhood. Priority, ingenuity, perseverance, gratitude. The power of compelling song lyrics to draw depths of strength from a human heart. GRIT. It was driving into Detroit, scrounging for parking money at Wayne State as I pushed through five years of grad school that I knew the shift of “home” was real.

I was working towards a Master’s Degree in Language Learning.  My passion and research were in the heart of authentic song lyrics. Song lyrics are a great resource for gaining cultural perspectives and memorizing new language forms–the perfect blend of geeky and inspirational.

I was stuck in traffic heading east on the 94. Eminem came on the radio…

 Maybe that’s why I can’t leave Detroit
It’s the motivation that keeps me going
This is the inspiration I need.

Eminem’s rapped intensity stirred something in me. I had joined a collective of people struggling to survive, to push through, to succeed when the odds are against them.

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There’s No Place Like Home

Now, our sense of home is shaken.  We will say good-bye to Motown and imagine a Rocky Mountain high.  We will establish a new home.  Home—where loved ones are waiting for us—exuberantly.  There is nothing like having people you belong to… those who long for your homecoming.  aaeb3621-71f2-4989-a9b1-da8b760fe2c1In the craziness of moving, I crave the beauty of the Rockies—quiet solitude, the forest and the streams, seeking grace in every step (J.Denver).  A place where we will continue to follow Jesus’ compelling example of loving God and loving our neighbors.

Maybe that’s why I feel so strange,
Got it all, but I still won’t change. (Eminem)

I do have it all. My heart is expanded across thousands of miles.  Grief is real because love is abundant—17 years of cultivated relationships—birthdays, funerals, Thanksgivings, play dates, countless Eid celebrations.

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I could never turn my back on a city that made me.
And “life’s been good to me so far” (Eminem)

I don’t have to select an anthem. Instead I will make a crazy summer playlist—one where John Denver and Eminem are back to back. I’ll add a splash of Simon and Garfunkel, some Fiddler on the Roof, Kutless, Crowder, and probably Lady Gaga.

I will laugh, cry, dance, and stare off in the distance on that epic, one-way road trip at the end of July.

Home is the center of our hearts—the place where the presence of God is real. Even in the mess of my mixed emotions, chaotic packing, and our crazy summer playlist of 2018…  He makes His home with us.de86863c-499c-4dc4-89fb-a8ef53b71e24.jpg

What’s on your summer playlist?

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IMPACT

I don’t pretend to understand what’s going on in the mind of a mass shooter. The news is wrought with trying to figure out why the gunman did it. What was in his head? What were his motives?

But today, as I was watching one such report, I began to take notice of impact.

What impact did this one man have?

I don’t know why he chose to make such a horrendous impact, but here are some things I observed:

  • He had a purpose bigger than himself
  • He had a plan
  • He took dangerous risks
  • He invested to succeed
  • He powerfully changed the lives of those around him
  • He was willing to die

I HATE that he had such an impact. I HATE that he was successful.

In times like these, I try to focus on what I know to be true.

Jesus the Messiah gives us insight into the motives of a thief.

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy.

The impact of this one man was killing, stealing, and destroying life. But we were not designed for such destruction.

We are created for life—to choose life, to be life-giving.

Jesus the Messiah also reminds us of what life is intended to be.

I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

So what will our impact be?

  • We are designed to live out a purpose bigger than ourselves.
  • It is good to create a plan and plot out success.
  • Being an agent of change in the world requires taking risk, prioritizing and investing to succeed, and being willing to lay down our lives for something greater than us.

The difference is hope.

We all face in some way the dullness and pains of life that have us wondering why we get up each morning. But there is hope. There is purpose.

We were designed for impact. Our souls long for immortality, somehow, in this fleeting, broken, hurting world.

Hope anchors our souls and keeps us getting up to try to live each day to the fullest.

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 While one man caused death, many made music.

In the news interview I watched earlier, musicians Big and Rich, who opened the Route 91 Harvest festival in Vegas performing on October 1, 2017, recounted the beauty of song. The music festival opened that evening with a powerful sing-along of God bless America.

Making music is the whole reason people gathered that night in Vegas. Music draws us and compels something inside us. Different kinds of music draw different people. But, music brings us together; it makes our bodies move.

And when we grieve and mourn our losses, there is music for that, too.

Maren Morris released this song to honor the victims of the Vegas shooting. She addresses HATE directly in a letter:

Dear Hate,

You were there in the garden, like a snake in the grass, I see you in the morning staring through the looking glass. You whisper down through history and echo through these halls. 

But I hate to tell you, love’s gonna conquer all

While hate has always been around, love conquers all.

We hold on to that hope because we were designed for impact. That desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves screams of our eternal capacity, our longing to touch immortality and make history. Something inside us dies if we don’t perceive our purpose—and dream, plan, design, and carry out our impact on the world.

Heroes laid down their lives.

I so appreciate the news stories that give voice to the heroes and the rescued amidst the tragedy—those who risked their lives for great impact and greater good.

What I’ve learned from observing a shooter is that it’s not just about making an impact.

What I’ve learned from observing the impact of heroes is that it’s about choosing life.

Heroes sought life-giving opportunities. Being heralds of hope in a despairing world. Taking radical risks of rescue. Laying down their lives to save another. If life can grow out of the death of one little seed, there is value, meaning and purpose in that death.

Choose life.

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(Published in the Yemeni American News, November, 2017)