baking cakes for teenage weddings

My new column at Mcsweeneys is up.

It was a hard one to write, because it was a hard thing to experience.

What I didn’t add in the piece is the fact that this was the last time I have seen her; Hali (not her real name, obviously) moved to the East Coast the next day. She was supposed to come visit here in June, but she is 8 months pregnant and won’t be able to come out.

I don’t write very much anymore about living where we live (low-income housing, refugees for neighbors) because it doesn’t seem safe. But I will say that there are many, many sad things going on all the time. Some times I can shove it down, and other times I can’t. I have been grateful for this column-writing-experience because it has forced me to look at the situation square in the eye. And, no surprise here, I have been found wanting.

The girls in the refugee community get it the worst. They come here, are educated up to their eyeballs both by the schools and the media that they should “follow their hearts” and “believe in themselves”. They catch ahold of these ephemeral promises and hold on tight, until suddenly they can’t. Their culture catches up when they turn a marrying age and demands they go back and live life the way it always was. Except this time, the girls know that there are different paths out there. Just not for them.

In many ways, it seems like the worst of both worlds. And there isn’t anything I can do about it, really. Just stay a friend. Keep the channels of communication open. Try and be nice to the men in the community for once, and influence them for good.

And, of course: pray. Pray. Pray, without ceasing.

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5 thoughts on “baking cakes for teenage weddings

  1. Grace says:

    Your article was so heartbreaking…thank you for teaching me so much through your experiences…

    • thanks grace. i know, it was hard to relive it as i was writing it. but it is so great to reflect and step back and continue to realize i am not in control of everything,

  2. Jessica says:

    I just felt that same sense of heartbreak today when I was reading it. I worry so much about the teenage girls; some of our Burmese families will be fine, but the African girls with broken or abusive homes? I lie awake at night and think about them. And remind me to tell you the story of the pedophile who was stalking our kids some day–it’s a doozie. I don’t know how you do this day in and day out, living in the same apartment complex (believe me, we’ve thought about it). It’s not that we think it’s unsafe or not a good place for our kids, it’s that at the end of the day I’m not sure my heart could take it. I’ve had to limit myself to a few times a week for the sake of my own boundaries. I don’t know you well enough to say this, but feel such a kinship I’ll put it out there anyway: I hope you have some retreats to go to at times in the midst of this intense life God has called you to. H&M sounds like a good one to start with. 🙂

    And can you tell how much we admire you? Your every post makes the rounds among my refugee-loving friends; we’re so grateful to hear someone describe so beautifully our little off-the-beaten-path world.

    • thanks for your kind words! and i would be very interested to hear your stories . . . hmmmm maybe i will do a series asking people to share some of their refugee experiences here. the good, the bad, and the funny.

  3. Sarah K says:

    I just want to cry with you, friend. Watching hope slip away is so painful–you’d think you could die of the heartbreak, but no. It’s not that easy. We go on.


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