Thursday, April 3, 2014


On Saturday Minnesota started melting. Matt and I wrestled the girls into front carriers and Jasper put on his rain boots. We set off on a short walk, racing and puddle jumping around our sunny neighborhood.

For ten blocks, we were very good at this three-kid-thing. We laughed a lot, our toes got wet, and those driving by thought we were downright adorable.

I spend so much of my time cooped up these days giving each girl half of what they need, leaning into family and friends brave/bored/kind enough to help, and declaring to Jasper that he has "two choices". (This conversation has the power to unleash or compose a meltdown, but I never know which until I'm standing in the midst of his emotional puddle.)

I am experiencing my own meltdown in these first weeks of twin-dom. I am watching the sacred cow of my expectations, hormones, and needs being melted down into the biggest puddle at all. I stare at it dripping and pooling, hopeful that it will be remolded and fired into something new and more useful instead. Even a gaudy keychain for my minivan keys would be better than nothing.

Two choices. Ugh. When you are three years old, two choices aren't enough. And I listen to his discouraged, whiny protests while secretly agreeing with him:

I can feed this one or that one.

I have time to brush my teeth or put on deodorant.

I can write thank you notes or a baby book entry.

We can heat up leftovers or bake a Stouffer's lasagna (again).

He's right. Life in the world of two choices totally sucks. So it's no wonder that language around choices are all I can hear in the preaching text for this Sunday: John 19:1-16a.

Jesus gives Pilate two choices: an earthly or heavenly kingdom.

Pilate gives the people two choices: he will free Jesus or Barabbas.

The people give Pilate two choices: kill Jesus or lose your job.

Hinge moments. The nitty gritty. Hard choices. Vested interest. A vast audience. The struggle for control. People convinced they're doing the right thing for the all the wrong reasons. Other people doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons. Jasper is right when he says, "No, I want three - no I want four choices!"

And then there is Jesus.

Maybe he has a choice. Maybe he has two or three or four or a billion choices we don't know about. But in John's gospel, there is only one way for God enfleshed to be. At noon the Passover lambs are sacrificed and so is he. Jesus is robed in purple with a crown of thorns and he moves toward the cross. He speaks the truth - the confounding, frustrating, unceasing, merciful truth in the midst of all these shitty human choices.

I am the Son of God. I have come to take the sin of the world. 
It is the only way.

Then everything begins melting.
Choices and sin and motivations and power and struggle and hope and death and life.

And we stare at it dripping and pooling, hopeful that it will be remolded and fired into something new and more useful instead. And this resurrection ain't no gaudy keychain.

Monday, March 17, 2014


"Jasper, look at me. I'm going to count to five…"

There have been many warnings in the last weeks. It's hard to be three and suddenly infiltrated by two needy human beings who always seem to be in the arms of your parents, always gloating with their cries and coos.

"But I want to whine…because I don't want to do that..."

Ugh. In many moments, we are a house filled with people who are not doing what they want to be doing. We are five overtired whiners who need naps and hugs.

Jasper's ashes still adorned his forehead on Thursday, even after the wet washcloth made a pass and he slept with his face smashed into the Goldy Pillow Pet in his bed. I could still make out the smudge through his late afternoon meltdown, the time out, and the tender moment where he finally lets me wipe his tears with my sleeve.

I crawled into bed with him and we snuggled under a pile of books. My body ached against the wall and my breasts ached for all three of my children. It was not time for the girls to eat yet, but his cries tricked my body into thinking milk would help.

"I don't like time outs. Waiting is hard."

Amen, Brother. Waiting is really hard. Getting the loud stuff out and then calming down is hard, too.

But then, in the calm
and the wiping of the tears
and the physicality of love embodied

we come together and there are finally words.

Words about our feelings and words in the books that will guide us back to rituals and laughter and peace with each other.

"Mommy when you're frustrated because I'm whining your eyes get really big like this."

His eyes bugged open, wider than ever.

And then we burst into giggles.

"They do! That's because I need big eyes to see all the big things you're feeling. And I open them wide so you can see my eyes while I'm telling you what you need to do and how much I love you."

I prefer these words to the number five, but getting to these sweet and thoughtful places usually begins by counting to five in the midst of all kinds of feelings and rebellion and abandon. Oh well. It is in this loud and physical bantering we each begin to sense the wideness of this love, the exhaustive power of this love, and merciful healing of this love.

He falls asleep in my arms like he did when he was little. I watch his eyelashes for awhile and then sneak out of his little bed to feed his sisters. Someday I will share words and numbers with the girls, too, but for now it is just Jasper learning these things together with me. It's just Jasper meeting me in the heat of five and feeling every ache with me.

Monday, February 17, 2014

breaths, burps and blessings.

My breaths were stronger this time. 

I was induced at 38 weeks on the nose. Contractions grew with the day until my eyes were closed and the only sound I could hear was my breath. When it was time to push, they came quickly, eagerly. And then their breath filled my ears instead.

Eleven minutes separated them.

First, Solveig Marta emerged with deep and fierce cries. 
She grabbed my finger right away.
Five pounds, five ounces.
Eighteen inches.

Then, Tove Saunders wailed short and piercing cries.
As they turned her toward my chest, 
she peed on everyone at the foot of my bed.
Four pounds, nine ounces.
Seventeen and three quarters inches.

Solveig came home from the Special Care Nursery the same day I did, but Tove stayed a full week to gain weight and work on her breathing. Every day, Solveig and I would get dressed and drive to the hospital to spend 6 hours with her. I high-kicked a handicap door button while holding a diaper bag, pumping parts and her car seat every morning on my way into the Mother Baby Center while thinking, "Oh, a mother's love. How on earth am I doing this?"

Shortly after Solveig came home, Matt and I made an ambitious outing with Jasper. I had three hours away from my pump and parking at the MOA seemed to use two of them. But we moved through the chaos running races, visiting fish tanks, chowing down in the food court, and venturing into Nick Universe just as my milk came in. Matt ran to get tickets while Jasper and I waited in line at his favorite ride. I was tuckered and sore, but blessed by the small hand clutching mine with delight.

It's all milk and burping around here, which is difficult for Jasper. Tove came home the afternoon we were to celebrate his third birthday. Help from the village ensured that the girls stayed out of the spotlight and Jasper could shine. He spent weeks blowing out practice candles. He's come a long way from the spit eruption that extinguished two candles last year.

Matt and I have a Valentine's Day tradition of Hardee's and this week makes 10 in a row. The year I lived in AZ, I ate at a Carl's Jr. and three years ago we went through the drive thru right after being discharged with newborn Jasper. This year I took a detour after my massage and picked up burgers for me and my man…and chicken strips for our little guy. We smiled while chewing our burgers. For a meal, everyone was quiet.

Someday these three will be fabulous friends. Jasper will want to help and the girls won't barf right after baths. Someday I will return my pump to the hospital and have one drink too many and fall asleep on my stomach for eight glorious and uninterrupted hours. 

But that means someday there won't be tiny breaths and candles and fingers and diapers in my house. That means someday people will stop leaving delicious meals on our doorstep and sending kind text messages and prayers. 

So I'll gobble this up until things change. 
The good, the bad, the ugly.

That's not to say I will "enjoy every minute". Hell, no.
But I will be present in these moments 
because they are amplified by two. 
And five.
And then some.

The breaths, the burps and the blessings.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Women were not ordained in the Lutheran church until 1970.
I had never heard a female preacher until 1996.
But yesterday reminded me that we've come so far in one generation.

I attended the MLK celebration at Luther Seminary, where Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Pastor Kelly Chatman led the service. Pastor Kelly read a text from Revelation and then proclaimed, "This is God's wildest dream. We are God's wildest dream!" Looking around, I believed him.

The pews were full and people were standing, some rocking babies. We were praying and singing in so many languages. The scene was a wide community - people of different colors, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, incomes and vocations - all united in Christ's saving love.

I caught up with my local bishop, Ann Svennungsen, in the narthex and thought, "It is a big deal that she is a woman…and yet it isn't."

I received absolution and was invited to the table with words from my national bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, and thought, "It is a big deal that she is a woman…and yet it isn't."

I held out my hands for Christ's body and blood from Pastor Kelly and thought, "It is a big deal that he is an African-American…and yet it isn't."

My daughters will soon be born into a very different church than I. In one generation, much has transformed. Many more are included. Being the church has become significantly more difficult, which is a sneaky and Spirit-filled blessing.

There is still work to be done. Women burn out of ministry more quickly than men do. We are still subject to stereotypes, assumptions and the negation of our calls by some. 98% of part-time pastoral calls are held by women and we are often passed over for solo and senior roles because we don't "look" administrative.

And yet I am a solo pastor who planned her own maternity leave and then proposed (declared?) it to the church council. For every naysayer who questions my discernment and leadership, there are 99 people who don't seem to notice or care that I am female. I believe some of my greatest strengths as a leader are for stewardship, preaching, and conflict resolution. As the baby boomer generation of Lutheran pastors (mostly white males) retire, there is some new space for my generation of colleagues rich with diversity to lead well.

This is God's wildest dream - that our welcome gets wider and our passion for God's call gets deeper. My eyes filled with tears during the service as the girls kicked and rumbled inside me. Do they already know? Do they already believe they can be and do anything?

I am humbled and energized by Pastor Kelly's declaration. We are all called to do great and hard things. And the Holy Spirit is always at work, chipping away at our boundaries and divisions so there is room for God's wildest dream in the midst of the church. So there is room for very pregnant pastor mamas to amble up for the sacrament. So there are female bishops. So Pastor Kelly can preach with passion on MLK day. So the babies being rocked in the midst of it all know belonging from the beginning.

It is a big deal, but it is mostly a big deal because it's not a big deal.

Friday, January 17, 2014

crabby love.

I love crabby, angry Jesus. It good to be reminded that God's relationship with us is really hard for God, too. We can be frustrating and dopey. God can be impatient and jealous. What a complicated, totally common thing we've got going on here between heaven and earth - it's raw and dicey and holy just like so many of our human relationships.

This Sunday's text is Jesus Cleansing the Temple in John's Gospel. John puts this story right after the Wedding at Cana. Joyful celebration turns to sorrowful anger in a hurry. As God's people congregate in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, they are focused on the transactional rituals of the season - the buying and selling and bringing and bartering of this holy time. (Sounds like a few Christian holidays these days, right?)

Jesus enters the temple prepared for the relational rituals - prayer, breaking bread, hearing the Word, being made new. But the transactional is so much louder and more urgent. It is a physical and spiritual barrier to the good things the temple has promised for so many years:

a place for God's holy name to dwell

a place that blesses and renews

a place that calls us to divine holiness

a place where heaven and earth meet

Jesus takes one look at the moneychangers and sacrifices available for purchase, then flies off the handle. He will not put up with this crap. I don't know that I've ever been mad enough to actually make a whip out of cords, but Jesus finds that rage early on in John's gospel and gets to work chasing out everything that distracts from the relational.

And then all that anger turns into a great promise.

There will be another temple,
     but relational: broken and rebuilt.
There will be sacrifice,
     but not yours.
There will be transaction,
     but what you bring are empty hands and hungry hearts.
There will be dwelling,
     but it will be made of flesh instead of stone.
There will be blessing,
     but it will not be earned.
There will be holiness,
     but it is not calculated in doves and sheep.

Jesus promises his body and blood so early in this gospel.
Despite all fury and frustration, there is deep love and true sacrifice.

It comes all the way to us and then that flesh gets inside our flesh,
tangled up in grace - raw, dicey, holy grace that makes us new.