Monday, July 14, 2014


Jasper doesn't nap anymore. 

But he rubs his eyes and his lashes flutter. His pupils roll back and he shakes his head when you ask if he's tired. It's hard running races and playing cars and reading books and dancing all day without slowing down. 

When we plow through the day without pause or rest, it can hit us like a ton of bricks. Or, in this case, like a plastic picnic table.

We spent the 4th of July weekend up north with 14 adults, 3 kids, and 5 babies. Parents were always bouncing or rocking someone to sleep. They were cat-napping when they could. We shushed each other so little ones and sleepy adults could find peace around the clock. Sleep was lust-filled - we wished away fireworks and late night campfires. We dozed on the couch or crept away for something more substantial.

Sleep is illusive with little ones. I wake up every morning eager for 9:00pm, vowing to turn in earlier and sleep harder than the night before. Without good rest I am cranky and distracted, sensitive and very inconsistent in my parenting.

And so I am grateful for the strides we've made this month with the girls. They are sleeping well. They wake up looking rested. Even after those tearful nights of crying it out, they awoke with joyful smiles and warm eyes. Last night they fell asleep at 7:00pm flat on their backs with their arms over their heads. When I crawled out of bed at 6:30am today, it was silent. Our three little ones were still dreaming while we prepared bottles and the coffee quietly dripped.

Teaching another person to sleep - to notice and own the basic rhythms of this world - is so much harder than I thought it would be. With Jasper and again with the girls, it stirs up compassion and vulnerability, frustration and fatigue, self-doubt and hormones. We take two steps forward and one step back. Teething. Travel. Illness. Daylight Saving Time. Thunderstorms. Attitude. But in-between the hurdles, they get it! They learn to self-soothe. It starts to click. And while there are so many more challenges ahead, the house is quiet for a moment and there is hope.

I'm an hour late, but off to bed. Today has hit me like a plastic picnic table and I surrender.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


If Zion had a summer day camp, it would be really lame. Three kids would come and it's hard to play Ships Across the Ocean with three kids.

So thank God Zion doesn't do summer day camp alone. Instead, we come together with 9 other congregations - an ecumenical hodge podge that gathers in kids and volunteers from all over south Minneapolis and beyond. It's a beautiful thing to see these kids from small churches create something big together.

It was this warm fuzzy that got me thinking about the art projects we do at summer day camp. Could we make something that celebrated the uniqueness of each child and church, but also our compository charm?

My sister-in-law's brain and heart are built for moments like these. She comes up with gorgeous ideas and then has the courage to let it get loosey goosey when kids and chaos intersect The Plan. So I called on her wisdom and creativity.

We talked about all the ways it could go while taping ten canvases. Orderly and colorful concentric circles. Moderate amounts of paint. Clean borders. And then, on Friday morning, paint happened.

Do we have to do circles?

But if we really are all unique, we can't just stick to circles, lady!

God wants me to make a beautiful blob.

No one will know what I'm drawing except for God - and the Holy Spirit, of course. It'll be our secret, but everyone else can enjoy it because it'll be nice to look at.

I'm going to use all the colors so it jumps out at you!

Just a triangle. Just because.

I'm telling a story with my loaves and fishes. Just like Jesus told stories.

The sun is radiating. Like the Son with an O. Get it?

We sent the canvases home with each congregation, still a little damp. This morning the blue tape was peeled off and children stood proudly before their spiritual villages - showcasing squares that were theirs and squares that designed by others. And then they explained that they were part of something bigger - something present even in other congregations and neighborhoods and denominations.

And, whether they knew it or not, their paint was the sermon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

ya yas.

I am blessed with aunties and godmothers and more.

By more, I mean women who have always been in my life - women my mom has known since college or women who are distant cousins but awfully close anyway. Even my brothers' mother-in-laws have fallen into my village of wise and compassionate women, good at cheering me on and loving my life. It's pretty amazing.

When I found out I was having twins, I was terrified that this life would be too much for me. It sounds a little silly now, but I was certain I would get fired and slowly die under a pile of Hostess cupcake wrappers, my friends all wondering what had happened to me. I knew I'd be a hot mess - and I am - but I underestimated the Ya Yas.

Liz & Tove
Women came around me with diapers and meals and long afternoons of baby holding. They prayed for me, sent supportive emails, and loved my girls with the same confidence they've always loved me. These women are more than family members or friends of my mother: these women are my Ya Yas and I'm not sure I'd be this happy in my skin as a woman today without them.

In watching these women with Solveig and Tove, I started thinking about the next generation of women who will surround them. They will have wonderful grandmothers, aunts, and cousins. I have fabulous friends they will grow to love through FaceTime and play dates. But in the midst of so many things, experiences, and people they will have to share, I wanted to give them each a Ya Ya all their own. I wanted to make our family a little bit bigger - by adding a woman who will be uniquely theirs.

Molly & Solveig
Molly and Liz were easy choices. These are strong, vibrant, funny women who will champion my daughters along the way. (They are also just weird enough that, after confirming that I am indeed making this honor up out of thin air, they still agree to be Ya Yas with wholehearted enthusiasm.) I am already grateful for their special attention, the affection they give the girls, and the new layer we've added to our own friendship.

I wish the power of these female bonds for every little girl. It seems to matter that we grow up with lots of different kinds of women in our lives, each being true to herself and each supporting another as she does it differently. Because it is through the different generations and choices and expressions we become more attune to ourselves and more in awe of the wideness in which we all get to be Women.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

parables and pentecost.

The kingdom of God is like a small Bible study that gathers in a church lounge each week. It is like an old missionary and a bus driver and a young pastor and a few highly mobile individuals who live with mental illness. It is like a circle of unexpected friends who speak grace every Tuesday.

The kingdom of God is like one member of this Body drowning in voices, suddenly feeling unwelcome and ashamed. And when he wanders off abruptly with tears streaming down his cheeks, it is like the prayers that fall from the lips of those who remain.

The kingdom of God is like a pastor, back with this group for the first time in months, who leaves the discussion at hand to go look for the one. It is like a pastor wandering into his favorite corner store and fast food restaurant, checking alleys and asking neighbors if they have seen him. It is like love that finds you when you are running from both the voices and the place you belong.

The kingdom of God is like a woman who lives with bipolar disorder who prays a prayer of thanks for the growing and thriving congregation you serve. It is like seeing Church through her eyes: something always rising and always living - even though the trends and numbers and markers of this world would say otherwise.

The kingdom of God is like a coffee table filled with Bibles of every English translation - some in large print and some in Braille. It is like the Eucharistic Table because it is a feast of the Word and proof of God's wide, inclusive love. It is like the story you are reading that morning that says, "I will pour out my Spirit onto all is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?"

The kingdom of God is like a quiet pastoral office nestled in the back of the church, where God's people feel safe and honest. It is like the space where the lips of strong leaders quiver as they confess their exhaustion, their burdens, their overwhelming responsibilities. And it is like a pastor who says, "Then put it down. God cares more about you than that ministry or line item". It is like the calm she feels in telling that truth, even though she does not have a Plan B for that ministry or line item.

The kingdom of God is like shin-high grass on the south lawn, itching to be mowed by a sweaty volunteer - a symbol of abundant life that surrounds a weary, but feisty and passionate congregation. It is like the new annuals just planted - rising high and waving back and forth in the breeze - blown around by the Holy Spirit who promises to be with us until the end of the age. Even when sheep are missing and circles are quirky and servants are tired.

Even then.

Friday, May 23, 2014


On Good Friday I took a brown Sharpie and masking tape to the wood paneled wall in our sanctuary. I aimed to outline a stocky, barren tree trunk and it kind of worked.

Since then, we've been adding leaves. Every Sunday and Wednesday bulletin has a green sticky note in it. And we write down one sign of resurrection in our midst. There is new life everywhere and twice a week I get to declare it on the tree.

This week I wrote "Patricia Lull". She's the newly elected bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod and I'm thrilled. A great leader right next door!

I shared my enthusiasm with Matt since he has met and enjoyed P. Lull. "Can you believe it? My presiding bishop and the two local bishops are both strong, brilliant women. And I'm a 32 year old solo pastor - this didn't happen thirty years ago! Time are changing - it's exciting."

"Yeah. Now if you can just get that church of yours to stop dying."

Sometimes my husband is a Wet Blanket Truth Teller. This was one of those times. He's sort of right, of course. The ELCA is in a nose dive (and has been for my whole life). One woman, one bishop, and one pastor cannot change this fact.

But he's not all right. I'm not sure "don't die" is the call. And it's not my church. Then native instincts emerged as foreign words I'd never spoken before:

"The big church - the Holy Spirit's church - will be just fine. But my little congregation and denomination probably won't be. Yet it's not my job to stop them from dying. In fact, I think I am called to help them die with dignity and grace. We can rebrand and reimagine and reignite all we want, but these efforts are shaky at best when our hearts and gaze are focused elsewhere:

We are terrified of dying. And we will be terrified of dying until we actually die. And until we actually die, it will be hard to multitask the fear of dying with growth that comes from really listening to the Holy Spirit's desires."

I startled myself. I guess I knew this somewhere in my heart, but I was most caught off guard because the realization didn't make me feel sad or guilty or worried. And so, like the chatty extrovert I am, I continued:

"I am not afraid of this death. My denomination has been in decline my whole life - I don't remember the good old days, so I can't lust after them! But I refuse to believe that this death is an ending because, in Christ, death never has the last word. So I believe part of my call is to be fearless and to name things that make folks uncomfortable and ashamed. I believe I am called to carry the death clothes and perfumes and oils. I believe I am called to remain calm when it looks like the end and I believe I am called to watch the tomb for resurrection. Because this rebirth will be so much more beautiful than all the things we've been carrying. And God gave me a big voice for announcing and shouting and proclaiming. So I'm gonna use it."

I don't think this death and life will happen all at once in the church. It will not be found in the changing of the guard or bureaucracy or property management or membership or statistics or dollars. But it will be found in white knuckles relaxing and risks taken and stagnant ministries laid to rest. It will be found in new discernment and compromise and collaboration and whenever egos are checked. It will be found on sticky notes and in vulnerability and wherever people put down their fear of dying to carry God's stuff for awhile.