When I arrive at the prayer labyrinth, I step out of my sandals, feel the sharp edge of a branch under my heel, the smooth plane of rock. I walk slowly, try to notice the soles of my feet, the earth holding me up. I wind along the path, feeling like a living metaphor for almost everything, mothering, faith, life. Lost and confused, not sure where I’m headed, I try to trust that the path will lead me to the centre of something bigger than myself. I notice the clover growing in between the stones, perfect and gorgeous, small hearts bursting with the greenness of life. I notice flowers crafted like ornaments, complex red and purple bells, tassels, bulbs. I cry easily, at the beauty of it, the sorrow of it, the images of my daughter alone on the playground, the fears of last night’s headlines. I return to my feet, my careful stepping, suspect that walking in this holy place among these growing things might be the only truth I need. I find my way to the centre, kneel on the stone cross, touch my forehead to the ground and breathe. I lay spotted leaves into a pattern, notice someone before me has left a yellow bouquet. I wonder if spirituality is greener and earthier than we realize.
This grey morning, I sit on the porch with eyes tired from last night’s tears and read Mary Oliver…
Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,
and all the tricks my body knows-
the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,
and the mind clicking and clicking-
don’t seem enough to carry me through this world
and I think: how I would like
to have wings-
ribbons of flame.
(from “Spring Azures”)
(A lecture delivered to the AP Language class at Rosslyn Academy, 2013)
A few Sundays ago, after I’d poured my heart out on the floor of a small church in Limuru, giving what might have been a sermon, or might have been a too-long poem, I stood outside the church, fragile and shaky as though my blood had been sucked out with a syringe in the bottom of my feet, and Mr. Enns walked up to me with that smile of his that makes you feel like you’re his favourite grandchild and he just wants to give you twenty bucks for your last report card, and he said, “Can you come to talk to my AP language students about why you love language?” He may as well have asked a pale and puking cancer patient to give a press conference on why she loves her rounds of chemotherapy. It’s not really about loving or hating or lectures or textbooks. It’s about life and blood and the air we breathe and her only answer is to take another breath and ask who can argue about loving or hating when there are no other options.
Language for me is a little bit like that, or at least it feels like it after I’ve spoken anything I’ve written out loud, much like I am today. Why do I love language? I don’t know if it can be about loving or hating, but language, words- little black virtual scratches on white and blue laptop screens, or rambling, raucous sounds rolling across the air waves when someone speaks something beautiful and true, or black marks splattered across a page in an e.e. cummings poem- words save me over and over. They make sense of the chaotic garbage heap inside me- all the fear and confusion and anger and passion and longing that piles so high behind my ribcage and at the back of my skull that I think I must be the craziest, most pathetic of all creatures. But then when I remember about words and their magic, I sit down and write- long embarrassing rants about my hurt feelings and my jealousy and my despair about war in Syria. Or poems about the sound of my husband’s breath when he’s sleeping or the way my middle daughter flits across the lawn like a grubby fairy. Or descriptions of jacaranda petals strewn across sidewalks like fairytales. Or sermons about my resentment at a God who seems to speak in grand sweeping revelations of love and goodwill to everyone but me. I write. I write and write.
Sometimes I write articles to be published about that twisting in my stomach every time a young boy and his maybe-blind grandmother tap tincups at my window by Sarit Centre, because even after all these years I still don’t know if it’s better to give money to him or not, and I have to write about it and send it somewhere for someone to read because people living in the suburbs of Minnesota think this giving to the poor is so simple and easy as clicking the give button on their favourite charity website. But you and I know that it’s not that simple and if we don’t tell them- describe that sound of the tincup and those wrinkled shuffling legs centimetres from the wheels of lorries spewing black careless exhaust- then they’ll never know. So sometimes I write articles in the naive and gorgeous hope that maybe I can change the world.
Sometimes I write speeches or sermons like the one I’d spoken that Sunday that Mr. Enns invited me here, because I happen to go to a church that allows me to say things that would probably get me excommunicated from all sorts of other places. They actually let me stand up there and talk about fear and doubt and longing for God to be real. And even though it makes me so nervous I want to puke in the bushes on my way into the church, and every time I end up with tears and snot running down my chin while I’m talking, I keep doing it. Because it saves me twice. First, the act of writing it down, of staring at confusing and awful Bible verses, convinced that there’s nothing profound or beautiful I could ever offer about them, but then starting to write, haltingly, awkwardly, deleting most of what I write and feeling like a sham and a heretic. Somehow in the act of that forced writing, some little glimmer of truth finds its way through the cracks of my doubts and confusions, and by the end of the writing, I feel like maybe I’ve found something true, or at least half true, and maybe that’s God speaking through the words, or maybe it’s just my own inner wisdom, but I never would have believed it was there if I hadn’t taken the time to write, to go through the agony and alchemy of transforming thoughts into words on a page.
But then those same words save me again, because I speak them aloud, which feels exactly like spewing my guts onto the floor in front of those wooden pews, while naked. But every time someone comes up to me afterwards, like Mrs. Brozovich that other Sunday, who kissed me on the cheek with tears running down her own, and said “You take all the crazy thoughts in my head and you give them words. Thank you thank you thank you.” So in that moment, we’ve saved each other, because what all of us long for more than breath, I think, is to know that we’re not alone in our psychosis. That someone else feels even a little bit like we do, is just as lost or scared or crazy as we are. And I happen to think that language- words and phrases crafted like art- are our best hope for it. I know it’s happened to you- that one line of a song that kicks you in the gut, or makes you gasp because it nails it. So you listen to it over and over while you lie in the dark, because somewhere in the universe someone has had the same feeling or thought you had and they said it in exactly the way you never did but wish you had and it feels like a lifeline thrown to you as you’re drowning in the night.
The inspiring and discouraging part, though, is that good, true, world-changing, gut-kicking, beauty-making, revolution-inspiring writing doesn’t just happen. You can use “awesome” and “sucks” for a while, but it’s probably not going to get you far- not into university, lord knows, and not into a good job and definitely not into all those moments of truth and connection that I’ve been rambling about. Of course when you’re sorting through the garbage inside you, you can write as awfully and awkwardly as you want. But once you’re past the spewing stage, and you actually want to write something that gets you a job or gets you a girlfriend or changes the way someone thinks or gets Mrs. Brozovich to cry and kiss you, you’ll need to know how to use words, how to craft sentences and paragraphs as carefully and artfully as a violinist performs a concerto or an artist sketches a portrait or an architect creates a blueprint millimeter by millimeter.
You need to practice, of course. Write a hundred awful sentences to find three good ones. You’ll need to start noticing spectacular words in conversation and songs and painted on the sides of dukas to add to your own toolbox. You’ll need to foster an awareness of rhythm, images, transitions. I was always so picky with my high school English students about their transition words, their topic sentences, their use of commas. Not because I’m a nerdy and obsessive grammarian- although I am that, let’s be honest- but because somewhere down the road they and you will have something to say and the words will be your only tools, and it would be such a shame for the huge truth you have to offer to fall flat and never make it to the ears that need to hear it because your rhythm was off, or you only had Facebook vocabulary to use. Craft words, images, sentences for your friends, family, your future children. Write passionately, extravagantly, shockingly. Write now while you’re seventeen, because some day when you’re old and boring you’ll wish you could capture the fire and rawness of teenagers. This is your only chance to say this now- what you believe, where you stand.
You can worry that everything’s been said before so you have only piles of nothing new to offer. Or you can always be bold and relieved because no one has ever, ever, ever told your story. Your reality. Your big and little truths. And every time you put words together in a surprising or unexpected way, it’s doubly new and yours. Try describing your friend with the tobacco stains on her manicured fingers, or the anger that presses at the inside of your skull, or the lilting lifting lightness at the base of your neck every time that gorgeous guy walks by. It’s your story. Give it the dignity and chance it deserves by using language beautifully, powerfully, bravely. Wallow in words. In the joy of creating reality. The fun of hearing sounds roll off the tongue, or the sight of them splattered across the page, or the tears that well up in your mom’s eyes when she reads your description of the breakfast table at your house.
At this point, you’re staring at me blankly, thinking, but what about the AP exam? You want the address of the website I use that has the top ten best tips and tricks to write great sentences and increase your vocabulary. So I’ll tell you. It’s www. no such thing. You want to know how to write a really great sentence? Communicate something impressively and effectively and beautifully and 5-points-on-the-exam-ly? Read poems. I would bet my life blood that if you read one great poem every day from now till your AP exam, if that was the only thing you did this year to prepare for that exam, it would increase your essay scores by two points at least. Try it. Read poems aloud to your friends and your boyfriend and your dad. Read Billy Collins and e.e. cummings and Rainer Maria Rilke. Revel in the sounds and the passion and pure enjoyment of brilliant poems. While I was sitting at a coffee shop one night trying to conjure up some sort of wisdom to say to you today, I spent most of my time reading poetry, and of course I spent some time with Pablo Neruda, because what is a night at a coffee shop without a bit of passionate Chilean poetry? And I found these lines that I just had to send immediately to my husband:
Bread I do not ask to teach me
but only not to lack during every day of life.
I don’t know anything about light, from where
it comes nor where it goes,
I only want the light to light up,
I do not ask the night for
I wait for it and it envelops me,
And so you, bread and light
And shadow are.
You came to my life
with what you were bringing,
of light and bread and shadow I expected you,
and Like this I need you,
Like this I love you.
And although I’ve never thought to call Phil light and bread and shadow, somehow it captured something that made my stomach flip and remember why I love him so much. Poetry does that to you. And it imprints rhythm and structure and ideas and beauty into your brain so that when you do sit down to write, all those things leach through your pen or keyboard and on to the page while you’re not even watching.
Read good fiction, too, of course, if you ever want the hope of writing anything impressive or lovely- I have my list of must reads and Mr. Enns has his and your auntie has hers, so find someone you love and ask them which novel you just have to read. I might suggest David James Duncan or Dostoevsky or Salinger (definitely Franny and Zooey even before Catcher in the Rye) or Patchett or DiCamillo- because each of them have written something that has changed me forever and I remember the things that happened to their characters better than I remember my own childhood. Good novels show you something about life and something about yourself and something about the magic of good sentences.
Read non-fiction- people who have written about their life and their truths in a way that the rest of us dream of. I still haven’t been able to sit and write about the attack at Westgate and all its million implications for this city and my daughters and my own soul. But I have been reading, reading as though my life and my belief in anything depends on it. I’ve been reading a memoire of a little boy with down syndrome who attracts angels and miracles like a dog has fleas. I’ve read Anne Lamott who reminds me that “this is life’s nature, that lives and hearts get broken, those of people we love, those of people we’ll never meet.” She says the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward, and that we, who are more or less OK for now, need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes. You sit with people, she says, you bring them juice and graham crackers.
And I’ve read Buechner over and over, who says, “This is the world. Terrible and beautiful things happen. Don’t be afraid.” And if I did not have these words in my life this week, I can say with confidence I would not be sitting here right now or able to do so much as pour my kids cereal without collapsing in a shaking pile of despair of anxiety.
But even when life isn’t teetering on the edge of terror, I read non-fiction. I read people who write about motherhood and doubt and stretch marks, which may not be high on your list of must-read topics. So find your own amazing writers and borrow from the smartest people you know. But promise me you’ll read. Two hours on Instagram or Youtube or whatever the cool ways to waste your life are at the moment, will never make you a bigger or truer or more beautiful version of yourself. And they honest to God will not help you on your AP exam. In fact, any hours reading really terrible mindnumbing Tumblr writing will come back to laugh at you on that exam, cackling and taunting like schoolyard bullies who you thought were your friends but have tied you up to the flagpole and are stealing your lunch money. So reading bad brainless writing will sabotage on you in a grand and painful way, but reading a poem by Rumi or writing about the baby you once saw at an orphanage whose hollow eyes still stare at you from behind your own eyelids or writing a short story about Mr. Enns as a teenager- these things just might make your life a little clearer, truer, more bearable. You never know which words you read and which words you write will be the ones that end up saving you. Promise me you’ll try.
Today I will tell you of my Irish summer. Of hills as green as forever and old men who smile with their songs and sing with their eyes. I’ve always dreamt of roaming the Irish countryside and reading James Joyce over pints of Guinness. Or dancing a reel with a freckled boy in a tweed hat. And even though I only made it to page 100 in Portrait of an Artist, and my neck muscles twitch when I sip Guinness, and even though Phil is blond and palefaced and refuses to dance in public, even though all those things, it was still just like my dreams.
We landed in Dublin (me, Phil and our friend Tiffani), hopped in our shiny rental car and drove north, feeling very grown up and amazed at the smooth roads. Our first stop was the Hill of Tara, where people have been coming for a million years to be spiritual and communal, but where we were mostly wet (it was raining) and intimidated by the bullying sheep (they were everywhere). It really did feel like we were in some Irish infomercial, what with all that soupy green rolling for miles and woolly sheep loping casually past the bathrooms. It’s amazing, really, how much Ireland lives up to its stereotypes.
And then that night, our first evening in Ireland, we stumbled into one of those moments that make you re-adjust your vision of heaven just to make room for it. We sat in the corner of a little local pub and watched with wonder as one by one, old men with mysterious black cases under their arms came through the door. They called out greetings to the bartender, who was pouring their Guinness before the door had even swung shut, and they gathered at the table right beside us, the lucky voyeurs of a secret gathering.
Finally, eyes twinkling, grinning conspiratorially, they opened all those black cases, pulled out fiddles and accordions and Irish drums, and started playing. There were six or seven of them by now and a large wobbly woman who sat in their circle and encouraged them with her smiles. They sang and they laughed and they drank gallons of Guinness, just like they’d been doing every night for fifty years and probably their fathers before them. They flirted with us from behind their guitars and white whiskers, and the old drunk man in the red sweater kept trying to buy Tiffani drinks. I’ve never felt so lucky…
This morning Phil made coffee before work. We sat on the porch and watched the rain fall from a grey sky. A termite floated bravely up from the ground, hovered in the middle of the air, tried to resist the press of water on its wispy wings. A weaver bird, yellow and blurry in the rain, darted from the potato tree, plucked the termite from the sky and turned, mid-flight, leaving two lonely wings to spin back towards the ground. A moment later another termite appeared, up, up, rising like a tiny Icarus, and before it could even reach above the hedge line another bird swooped from grey and swallowed it midflight. And then while we were still stunned and curious, a great population of birds, yellow, red, grey, black, appeared from the trees and leaves and raindrops themselves, diving and darting around the yard in a frenzy of feasting. We called the girls to the porch and they stood as near to the veil of rain as they dared, still pajama-clad and rumpled from sleeping. We watched the dizzying show, wondered how the birds missed each other, how they knew so quickly termites were here, how they established order in the rain. Ten, twenty, soon there were more than a hundred flapping, swooping, chattering birds, gathered in our yard for a grand convention. We witnessed it with gratitude, couldn’t help making sound effects every time another termite was snapped in those tiny beaks, felt pity for the little bugs whose gasp at glory was so brief, but cheered for the satisfaction of tiny red birds with long tail feathers, swimming in their rainy breakfast.
Later after Phil left, the girls and I stayed on the porch, wrapped ourselves in Masai blankets and read The Princess and the Goblin. J lay her head on my lap, worried about witches, curled her thin legs under blankets. M leaned against my shoulder and tried to resist the temptation to read ahead, already predicting and sorting all the possibilities of story. P climbed on the table, tipped back empty coffee cups to feel the last cool drips on her tongue, interrupted a hundred times, ‘Excuse me Mommy.’
Princesses, goblins, termites, weaver birds, raindrops on purple flowering trees and the distant call of an eagle that sounds, to J, like Naivasha. Enchantment runs in rivulets down our days.
A dusty girl is carrying a red bucket past my window. She’s going on a journey, by rowboat, I think, to visit her cousins in Canada. It’s across the ocean, but not to worry- she’s an expert sandbox sailor. Her little sister sleeps inside, a dishevelled wisp of a thing, dreaming of baby dolls and puppies, no doubt. These are my ragamuffin angels, growing up under acacia trees and ibises, learning about life in the surreal bubble of a missionary compound on the edge of Nairobi. And I am their mother. Their adoring, exhausted, bumbling, struggling and much of the time, laughing mother. At the moment that’s my main identity. In my other life I was a high school English teacher, but for now and the foreseeable future, I’m just mothering. Well, and wife-ing, and occasionally writing, and drinking lattes whenever possible. But mothering seems to take up the vast majority of my time and thoughts and energy. More energy than I have much of the time, actually. A lot more energy than teaching high school did, as ludicrous as that would’ve sounded to teacher-me.
But there is a beauty to the exhaustion. A significance to the sandbox moments. A holiness to all this red dirt that stains little feet and my white sheets and the cracks in my heart. This is my journey in red dirt mothering.
My little one of the inbetween places, this is your African home. The jumbled colourful city where you were born and the red dirt where you took your first steps. The ibises you watched as a baby under acacia trees, the termite wings you clenched in tiny fingers. You are a child of the Great Rift Valley, of hikes up volcanoes and snacktime amidst the zebras. These are the colours, the faces, the rains, and the smells of your Kenyan childhood, seeping into your soul, sparkling in your eyes.
But you are also a child of a land far away. Of prairies covered in snow and a sky as blue as forever. You come from a people who are rugged and strong, from farmers clearing frozen land and Grandmas stirring pots of borscht. Your blood runs like the rivers of the north, the crystal lakes of my childhood and the endless yellow fields of childhoods before me.
You are a child of here and of there. Of north and of south. Of today’s Kenyan sun and yesterday’s Canadian moon. The earth and the years have conspired to create for you this moment. This space for you to dance and breathe, to put down roots and to sail in the wind, my little one of this beautiful inbetween place.
I love parenting blogs. Blogs about moms who home school and only use wooden toys and spend their evenings working on family knitting projects around the fire. And the ones by artsy moms who give their kids access to every possible art supply and have funky paint-splattered studios where their children make monumental messes while creating four feet sculptures from recycled treasures. I love reading about families who integrate spirituality into their daily rhythms and have gratitude cards wrapped in raffia on their dining room table… beside the Gathering Candle…and the freshly baked multigrain bread. Or the ones who create enchanted outdoor play spaces for their children, lined with baskets of wood chips and pinecones, where their children craft fairy houses and wear gauzy white dresses. Or who are living on a local whole-food-only diet. Or instill a life-long passion for writing in their children by plastering words everywhere on quaint chalkboards and giant whiteboard walls and have writing nooks in every room.
And not only do I enjoy reading about their days, I love the photos. All those artistic close-up shots of jam jars and baby toes and aerial views of a table of three year olds finger painting, taken with a top-of-the-line SLR camera, no doubt, or a really cool vintage film camera. Or sketched by the mom on a piece of handmade paper while holding a baby on her hip and revising her new book being published this summer.
It’s just all so inspiring and lovely that I spend hours perusing the blogs, jumping from one to the other like an addict, jotting down recipes and craft ideas and new life philosophies. You would think that after all that inspiration I’d be, well, inspired. And a little more of an artsy/peaceful/healthy/ active/organized/spiritual mom, at the very least. But the truth is that one evening of idealistic family-life voyeurism sends me into a tailspin of self-loathing, and when I finally break away from the computer screen, I head straight into the kitchen to eat frozen cookie dough out of a toxic plastic container and lament my failures as a mother.
I’m not trying to disparage all those amazing blogging moms. I’m sure their lives really are just that wonderful-though hopefully not quite all the time- and that their children are benefiting in countless ways from the magical childhood they’re creating. I’m just not one of them.
God knows I try. Just recently I ordered a pile of beautiful wooden toys from Germany for my four month old daughter, determined that this time around, my baby wouldn’t suck on cheap BPA-infused plastic. She humoured me by glancing at them and even holding them for a while when I dangled them in her face. But it didn’t take long for me to wash off the ratty hand-me-down plastic rattle that her older sisters have been chewing on for years, because it’s just so much more satisfying to suck on than those clunky non-toxic wooden balls.
I have a candle on my dining room table, but I only remember to light it once a month or so, and it usually causes an argument about who gets to blow it out and someone keeps sticking toast crusts through the holes in the candle holder. There’s our enchanted outdoor playspace, which is an old plastic table on the lawn, littered with yoghurt containers and fast food spoons. I haven’t quite managed to whip up those gauzy dresses yet, so my daughters are still wearing their cheap sweatshop-produced t-shirts. Occasionally, I try to take artistic photos of the girls engrossed in their play dough but the lighting is always grainy, and against all my better judgment, I just can’t help but commanding that they turn and smile, ruining the magical moment every time. And newly inspired by a healthy, happy, yuppie family blog, I recently even made a commitment to serve only whole foods to my family. Unfortunately I hadn’t yet gone grocery shopping for the week. My husband called to say he’d be home for lunch but it needed to be quick, and within four measly hours of my noble commitment, I was boiling a pot of macaroni and cheese. (And it wasn’t the organic kind).
On and on it goes. I have so many noble ideals and keep gathering more and more ideas but somehow they never fully translate into my reality. I could use the excuse that I have three girls under the age of five, but half the blogging moms I read have five children, with twins on the way, and home school the oldest two. The truth is even when I had just two- okay, even when I didn’t have any children at all- I wasn’t knitting by the fire or baking my own bread or tending an organic garden. So why in the world do I think that if I just read a few more blogs and jot down a few more ideas I’ll suddenly be one of those moms? And not just one of them- I want to be all of them, if I’m honest. Which is exactly the problem: I want to be someone- a mom, a woman, a person- that I’m not. And when I admit that to myself I realize just how ridiculous and harmful all my blog envy is. Because even more than being artistic, healthy, earthy, organized, or inspiring, I want to be authentic. I want to be a great mom, but I want to do it as me, with all my strengths and foibles and macaroni and cheese lunches.
Which is why the other night, after a particularly deflating round of blog posts, I turned off the computer and sat down with a good old-fashioned pen and blank piece of paper (store bought, you can be assured). I drew a big lopsided circle in the middle and labelled it Parenting. Then I wrote down my main parenting values- the things I really do care about and want for my children. The list wasn’t overly profound- lots of unstructured play, exposure to music, a culture of empathy. I included creativity and time outdoors, but envisioned it on a realistic scale: a basket of accessible washable markers, lots of masking tape, our outdoor plastic table. I listed prayers and silence, lots of reading, and high, consistent expectations. That’s it. That was my list. And as I wrote, I finally felt inspired. Not by someone else’s version of mothering, but by my own. It’s not that I don’t want to grow as mother or that my list won’t change in a few months. I still sit down at the computer looking for a new breakfast cookie recipe or art idea involving toilet paper rolls. However, I refuse to get sucked into the demoralizing cycle of trying to imitate someone else’s blog life. I’d rather spend that time actually mothering. As me.
There’s a little blond boy crying at the bottom of the slide. Red lip out, chubby cheeks blotchy. Hair shimmering like a screaming cherub, trapped on the vinyl mat when really all he wants to do is fly. And his mother, tired, solid, pregnant belly under a fuchsia dress, breathes deeply and tries to find the inspiration for this moment. The insight that will keep her sane and poised instead of screaming and blotchy like the creature beside her. Because mothers long to be holy, sacred, strong. But the constant tugging on the mind and the skirt hem and the conversation, always with grubby, prying fingers, is enough to crumble the best of intentions. There’s only so much a guru can take. Which is why of course most gurus escape to the ashram and impose strict rules on the fingers around them- no tugging, no hitting, no talking most of the time. And they are proud of their enlightenment. But I say, who wouldn’t be enlightened under those circumstances? Anyone can achieve equanimity when their world is still and lovely and filled with rhythmic chanting and Indian breezes. Show me the spiritual master who is cooking supper and nursing and changing diapers and listening to the screaming of a two year old with a fever. That is the guru I want to follow, the kind of enlightenment I could respect and relate to. I’ll leave the ashram version to the faint of heart.
Relationships are such miserable, awkward things. Exhausting and grating, filled with miscommunications, hurt feelings, ugly looks, impatient sighs. But still, somehow they’re worth it, have to be worth it. They’re the way God speaks to us, the way we become more human, the great plan for life. And apparently the only way to receive the gift burrowed deep in each bumbling stumbling relationship is in the letting go, the forgiving each little slight, all those mistakes. You forgive them, let go your need to be right, to be the centre of things, to be the royal figure before whom all things bow. And when you no longer care about being right or being flattered or being appreciated, when you decide to put your little ego to bed, tuck her in and shut the door, you find you have nothing to lose and all this humanity – and divinity- to gain. You see that much of the time, you’re the one hurting and sighing and inflicting your neediness on others. You see that they hurt too. You see that we’re all doing our best with our clingy egos, our blistered feet walking this gravelly road of our days. Relationships aren’t easy, but easy has never been the most important value. Grasping for easy will never get you to the mountaintop, the hidden lake, the new baby, the Golden Anniversary. Don’t pray for easy. Pray for grace, humility, the great strength to give up the spotlight and stop the whining.