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I was born into an island nation that knows the pain of the pulling apart, and the standing against each other.  The short version is that there are two major ethnic groups (there are others as well), Sinhalese (the majority) and Tamils (the largest minority). While most of the time, both groups co-existed peacefully, there have been pockets of violence, systems of discrimination and then an eruption of sadness beginning in 1983 that would continue as a civil war for over 20 years, and some would say the sadness continues today. The history of hate in Sri Lanka is thousands of years old and complex, and I am unqualified to write the details, but this is part of my story.

We are Tamils, and it was 1977 when a mob of Sinhalese people came down the street to my grandparents’ home and burned it to the ground. My father, 25 at the time, and his family escaped with the clothes on their back. In 1983 it was time for round two. Only my grandparents lived in the house they rebuilt after 1977, my grandfather fighting cancer in what would be the last weeks of his life. A mob burned their house down to  the ground again. My mother, father and 17-month-old me lived in a different part of Colombo, and a mob came down our street. Our house and the one across the street were the only two Tamil houses on the road, and they were coming for one of us. We jumped over the back wall and hid in our neighbour’s house for three days.

By the end of that year, we were on a Korean Airlines flight the United States and the rest of my life would be spent as a missionary kid mostly in the Philippines and also in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

We didn’t talk much about the wounds of our racial history. We ate curry every now and then, but I grew up as a woman with no ethnic identity and with no understanding of the past other than these simple stories. I didn’t understand that there are more stories left untold, that the men and women who experience injustice need to know that their experiences matter.

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Forty-nine people died half way across the world from us while my sons and I read and played our way through late Sunday afternoon last week in Australia. They were members of the LGBTQ community, targeted by a madman. Fifty-three others are injured, a city torn apart.

There is a fracturing around us, you feel it everyday in your bones. Maybe it’s not new or worse than it was hundreds of years ago. But it is more real. Where once we would only know about the suffering of our community, today we know what happens in the cities of Mexico. We hear the stories about huddled refugees on Greek islands. The plight of the orphan, the widow, the assylum seeker, the victim of human trafficking, it draws near to us from the corners of the world.

We know within hours of shots firing that there are dead bodies in a nightclub in Orlando. We take it in from one side of a lit screen, tweets, images, reactions, reactions to reactions. It will only take a day for the soapboxes to come out, for fingers to be pointed at guns, at people, at theology, at public policy.

I’m guessing you have beliefs. I do, too. But after people are ripped from the earth through violence – in Sri Lanka, Syria, Falluja, Venezuela, and Orlando – I find little comfort in my opinions. I want to reach for the truth that I teach my sons every day when they hit each other with fists and cars and trains. He’s made in the image of God, all people are made in the image of God, you are never allowed to treat him that way. 

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We need connections created, restored, renewed, where people are not photos we scroll past on social media, but living, breathing, sitting at our table, eating in our homes, churches and communities. Our shoulders are touching theirs, we are asking questions, listening, sharing our lives, we are offering our presence. Our one life in this window of history. These kinds of tragedies don’t happen all the time, and our response says something about our heart.

Will it break? Will it move? Will the blood pulse through our veins, into our hands and feet and make us move in the direction of community and people?

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In my years of returning to Sri Lanka, we shared meals with Sinhalese Christians all the time, we still do. We were in their homes, we hugged their kids, on the vast majority of theological points, it is likely we agree, and in many ways it was like we were no different from each other. But never do I remember someone asking my parents, What was it like for you? What happened? I know we live in the same country, but what is it like to be here and be you? 

It is easy to shy away from conversations about pain when it didn’t happen to you. We feign a lack of curiosity for the life that wasn’t ours, for the cost we did not pay.

It is not easy to reach for people whose lives are foreign to us. Our natural instincts will always be to surround ourselves with people who mirror to us a life we want to have or the life we have. It is easier this way, it requires nothing of us.

My little family of four has only been part of our community in Melbourne since December, and our calendar slowly fills with dinners, brunches and playdates. With people who believe what I do, with those who sound like us, where there is little translation required because we are speaking the same language and sharing similar experiences.

What am I telling myself? What am I suggesting to you?

Have dinner with a gay man. Invite a Muslim for dinner. Have a playdate with a family that does not resemble yours. Open your home to people who do not believe what you believe, share your food with a community you fear, let their children race through your home and make a mess in the playroom.

Not as a project, not to tick your outreach box. Just because you can. 

Ask them questions. What does it look like to have your life? What did your family say when you came out to them? How do people treat you in the grocery store? What do you fear most? What makes you happy? What would you love to do when you retire? What do you do with your kids on the weekend? What are your traditions? 

Listen. With your ears first, then with your heart. Resist the temptation to form an opinion when you hear the answer. Concentrate on the hearing, the absorbing, the receiving of their human heart. Let their stories sit sacred on the hallowed ground of shared humanity. Dare yourself to see the similarities.

Not your similarities of belief.

The similarities of life, the places where your humanity intersect with hers, the space of connection with his present.

These corners mean something. 

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You will carve it out one conversation at a time, one dinner at a time, one playdate at a time. The more your heart opens to let people in, the less interested you will become in winning arguments in part because you will see that winning arguments is not winning people’s hearts.

We keep ourselves from connection because we think it means giving up territory. We fancy ourselves as soldiers on some ideological frontline, guarding our boundary line, thinking that if it moves an inch, we have lost.

Winning and losing is the world’s idea, a system created to put us against each other, a scheme that keeps you buying more and padding your life with degrees, homes, clothes, work, communities, religions and people who will make you feel like a winner. Its promise is, Buy me, take this, believe me and I will keep you from losing.

Are we soldiers with a territory to lose or are we neighbors with people to love? Women and men, children and teens, babies and preschoolers cobbling a life together in a broken world, picking up the pieces of our own mistakes and failures of others, clay spinning on a wheel in the hand of a potter who is forming us, shaping us, creating a piece that will be unrecognisable to our eyes when he is finished.

We don’t get to decide what he will do with someone else’s life. We don’t get to decide what he will do with ours.

Making our table a place for all to gather and for all lives to be shared, acknowledged and honoured tells a better story: God is in charge. He is working his way through human hearts, he gets to decide how the clay spins, he picks where to smoothen out and where to stretch. He decides what needs to go and what needs to stay.

We get to open our homes and our hearts. We get to set the table, pass the peach cobbler, and raise our glasses. We get to bow our heads and pray, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done.

On earth.

As it is in heaven.

Now it’s your turn: How can you connect with someone outside your circle of comfort? What keeps you from doing it? Could you call or email someone today? What questions could you ask them?

Welcome to My Daily Bread & Butter, I’m Devi, it’s great to “meet” you. If you’re new here, this page will give you a bit more information about me and browse the archives to read more. I love to write about food, family and faith at the table; hopefully what you’ve read today was food for your mind and heart. I love to hear from readers, so comment away or email if you prefer. If you want to receive these posts straight to your inbox, just scroll to the very bottom and subscribe. I’m more active on Instagram, so follow me there if it’s your thing. And if this post resonated with you, there are a few others of its kind in The Table archives.

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Saturdays are for expectations. I wake with thoughts of rest, time off, brunches and exciting expeditions, ideas that are rarely shared by my three-year-old when he wakes up at 6:30am. Nevermind my five-year-old who would rather ride a bike than read a newspaper with a coffee.

It took me years to realize I left most of my weekends heavy with disappointment and frustrated by unmet expectations. What has made our weekends a bit lighter? Staying present, focusing on the need, whether it is for food or extra play time or another round of hide and seek. Expectations put me in the future, staying present keeps me grounded today. I need this to thrive. Also, I do tell Husband when I need time off because 30 minutes in a coffee shop can fill me up in ways many things do not. It may not be brunch, but it is something.

Here’s to a happy weekend for you and yours, and if you’ve got a few minutes, these reads filled up my heart and mind this week.

How to Survive the Election because I cannot be the only one out there who is so finished with the US elections. And for the love, I don’t even live there. These are sound tips for anyone who wants to stay sane, healthy and whole until November

Police officers surprise an autistic boy when no one came to his party I read this and cried. There is nothing harder than watching a child struggle to connect with his or her peers.

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls by Nichole Nordeman she wrote most of the songs of my teen years, and her words in this post brought ears to my eyes. So much truth and beauty, give it a read if you’ve been through a hard season and are doubting that there are good things in God’s heart for you.

Korean BBQ Yum Yum Rice Bowls We will be eating these soon.

And if you need some ideas about how to get more rest in your life, here are four small changes that are helping me get more rest in my life.

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Rest. You’ve seen this word come up in my writing week after week. It was almost two years ago when I first realized I need to celebrate a Sabbath weekly, meaning we chose as a family to set apart one day a week when we we not work. We did it regularly for a while, but then it faded, life piled on. I put no boundaries on my work, so it seeped into everything. But I kept circling back to rest. I longed for my heart to find a space of silence, I hungered for rest for my mind.

You, too? Every corner of our world is shouting at us, telling us to work harder, be more, get more, buy more. If you take a moment to catch your breath, you can feel you need to try harder while failing at the same time. Work, busyness, creation is celebrated as the answer, but maybe what you’re looking for is rest, permission to stop, permission to say, “I can’t do it all.” 

In the middle of all of this, I “met” Shelly Miller online, and I found a home in her beautiful blog. She’s passionate about Sabbath celebrations, and her weekly Sabbath Society emails started arriving in my inbox. Week after week I read gracious, gentle words about Sabbath, why it mattered, why rest is beautiful and how to honour it (you can sign up for the emails here and pre-order Shelly’s book about Sabbath keeping, Rhythms of Rest here and here). Even in the many weeks when I was busy all days of the week, the minutes I took to read the email gave me moments of rest. Now it is the fuel I need to keep going.

We have slowly been working our way back to a weekly Sabbath celebration from Saturday evening to Sunday evening – I don’t believe it matters what day of the week is set aside for rest, but I think it is necessary to set aside a specific day or amount of time. Here are four small, weekly lifestyle changes that have made a big difference for us.

1 Work hard. Maybe this has been the most ironic thing about disciplining myself to rest. Rest requires hard work. It means that Saturday is no longer a sit around and relax day, Friday is often busy as well. I make sure the laundry is washed and hung up somewhere where I can’t see it, or folded and put away. Dishes are washed. Food is bought, put away or cooked. We bring our home to a state of order. Often I get snack bags ready for Sunday. In the middle of this work, when I’m tempted to leave things undone, Sabbath is my motivation. I get to not do anything tomorrow, so get this done now. 

2 Simplify. We’ve started eating the same dinner on Saturday and Sunday nights – the abend brod, German for evening bread. In Husband’s home in Germany every night the dinner is always the same: bread, butter, a selection of cold meats, cheeses, pickles and cherry tomatoes. I never understood cold food that isn’t a salad until I found weekends even more exhausting than the week because I was cooking all the time. German women are smart, the abend brod saves time and energy, and it’s easily repeated week after week (as a meal, as an item on a grocery list, as food my children will eat with joy and zero whining).

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3  Find daily pockets of rest. Yesterday I had a rare nap from one of my children, and suddenly had an hour of silence. I instinctively reached for my laptop for no reason, and I felt nausea wash over me. I’ve learned to listen to my body. I set it down, and picked up The Year of Cozy instead. I thumbed through it, and let the photos and the beauty minister to my soul. It was only 15 minutes but a solid soul exhale. Even in the middle of the hard work, it has given me so much to take 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there of soul rest. For me it usually means listening to a few songs that bring rest, reading a book, looking at something beautiful, the scent of something I love. It reminds me daily that rest matters, and it gives me even more reason to crave and work for the full day of rest.

4 Light candles. I learned this in Sweden: Everything looks better, feels better, is better by candlelight. Our boys are easily quieted by the flickering lights, and the promise that they can blow it out when the meal is finished. It’s a gentle, beautiful touch that sets this day apart. Bonus? It’s easy and cheap.

Now it’s your turn: How’s your resting life? What small changes can you do to bring more rest to your life? 

Maybe you’re frustrated by the list of big goals but wanting to seize your life and change? Small changes are for the rest of us, the ones whose dreams mock us from the sidelines, the ones who yearn for change but know they can’t just shove everything to one side. We do it bit by bit, piece by piece, and we believe that each piece is making a difference. If you want to read more about small changes, you can start here 3 Small Things That Make a Big Difference.

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I rolled over the other day, and said to Husband, I miss Sweden. Only a few words, but this was more than homesickness. It’s the sadness that follows me around even though life in Australia has been more than good. Sadness that cannot be shaken, not by gratitude or numbering my blessings or coffees or warm weather. Fatigue can wash over me in the middle of the day, and I’m still surprised with the overwhelm when it comes to making simple decisions, the energy I do not seem to have for connecting with people.

We moved to Melbourne, Australia six months ago after two years of living in Sweden and more years before that of a life in Switzerland. I grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines with furloughs and eventually university in the United States. I moved to Australia as a young adult, traveled around the world and met my husband in Switzerland. I moved every three to four years of my entire life, so carrying on is what I have always done. The boxes get packed, the forms are filled, the mad rush to the airport is made without a thought. The wheels lift off the ground, and the familiar thrill of the new adventure to come takes over.

At least that’s what moving used to feel like. 

I am 34 now, and I have two boys under five in tow. You could say that life on the move, all that carrying on, caught up with me. 

I tell myself that this move to Melbourne should be easy, the easiest I’ve made in my life. I have family and friends here, a support system is in place. I can read, speak and write in English. I can make a bank transfer again. I know where everything is. People are helpful and friendly, white-sand beaches are less than a 30-minute drive away, cafes and delicious food are everywhere.

But there are emotions, events and fears I picked up from carrying on, and I was carrying them everywhere.

I started 2016 on a personal retreat, and I took Soulkeeping by John Ortberg with me. Toward the end of the book there is a chapter about rest. He writes about the Christian life, how it is not easy and is not supposed to be easy. We know this, don’t we? We’ve read the book about holiness and not happiness, we know to expect suffering, even to rejoice in suffering. 

You know this. You are mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, friends, sisters in far flung places, fighting your daily battles. You’ve argued with with your boss, studied for exams, wrestled children who don’t listen. There’s an illness in your family with no diagnosis. You wonder how much longer you can live paycheck-to-paycheck. You’re walking out a difficult marriage day after day. Or maybe you’re just unsettled wherever you are in the life that you have and there is no explanation.

You know that God has not called you to easy. 

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I never expected my life to be easy. When it comes to hard work or the incoming “hard” thing, I’ve always thought, This is from God. But Ortberg continued. 

The Bible uses the word easy only once. It came from Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

‘Easy’ is a soul word, not a circumstance word. The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke. 

- Soulkeeping, by John Ortberg

We carry a weight when we walk through transitions. There is the role you have to fill in your work, the complex people issues, the kind of work that rarely yields a finished product. It is the weight of our children’s emotions expressed in slammed doors and tantrums. Carrying on takes its toll on our marriages, the emotions present in a partnership that may not often be expressed. There are the daily tasks we have to attend to, and in the middle of this storm, we carry the weight, we bear the difficulty, we take it upon ourselves to do it all, feel it all and carry it all.

We have the punishing voice of productivity saying, “Do more. Be more” and the distressed words of anxiety on the other, “It will not work out. It will all fail.” And this is the heavy, hard yoke that was not meant for our shoulders.

I’ve had to open my eyes to the quiet, gentle presence of Jesus in all my moves. The one who comes in and shoulders the weight. His whisper says, You are weary and heavy laden, come to me. Let me carry it. He is not asking for pieces of my life or parts of my problems. He wants it all. His invitation is to a life of letting go

It means more mess, more muddle, things may not happen when you or I want, but I am making the choice to say, I cannot do it all. 

I cannot solve all the problems. There may be overdue bills or an empty refrigerator.

I cannot manage everyone’s emotions. As much as I love my children and want them to transition well, I cannot be everything for them in this. There will be days when I fall apart, and that is ok.

I cannot meet all the needs. There will be needs of my husband’s, of my kids that will be unmet. I can trust that God will meet them, just like he meets me. 

He is carrying me, he is carrying you. In everything, everywhere, his kind hands are carrying us home.

If you’re in the middle or end of a transition, could I invite you to  read Falling Forward: Thoughts and Tips on Transition? It’s a series I wrote last October about our latest move. I hope it will bless you. Right now, I’m trying to capture moments of beauty and change over on Instagram, so head over there and follow me if you want to see more.

I’m linking up with The Grove at Velvet Ashes today. 

Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas

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One year ago in May we were in Melbourne for my sister’s wedding. It was the trip that led us to move here, so this one year anniversary comes with a mixed bag of emotions. We’ve been in Australia seven months now, and it is familiar and strange all at once. Thank goodness for the fabulous weather. It’s a winter day today, bright sun is shining and a high of 15 degrees. I can survive bright winter days. I’m not even wearing a coat.

Here’s what I learned in May.

Ed Sheeran, in keeping with the theme of me discovering musicians years after everyone else does, I listened to Photograph for the first time in May. It’s my new favourite song.

Rest is the key to my sanity, you’ll be hearing more about this in the weeks to come, but for now I’ll say that the first few weekends in May were jammed with events, and I could feel myself wilting day after day. It wasn’t until we scheduled in a Sabbath for two weekends running that it hit me – again – I was not made to go, go, go. I need a hard stop, I need regular, refreshing rest. And rest is not the absence of things to do. Rest is the choice to set aside the things that need to be done, and it is so worth it.

Small changes work, some of the small changes continue to make a big impact on my day-to-day life, and I wrote about a few of them here (a new alarm clock, keeping my bedroom neat, and a simple meal plan).

Red sauce + meat does not work says MasterChef, Husband and I are obsessed with this Australian show, and several weeks ago a contestant cooked duck with a caramelised beetroot broth, which was bright red. Matt Preston remarked that the delicious sauce looked like blood and was quite unappetising to look at.

Thanks as always to those of you who subscribe (scroll down to do that), read, comment and share. I appreciate it so much. Now tell me, what did you learn in May?

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman today and lots of others who are sharing what they learned in May. It’s a wonderful way to chronicle the small and big ways we grow, change and learn, and I love it. Right now, I’m trying to capture moments of beauty and change over on Instagram, so head over there and follow me if you want to see more.