Monday, November 26, 2012


Jasper is not so sure about winter jackets. He puts up a good fight getting into them. He's wiry and strong and determined to remain in one layer come hell or high water. Sometimes I break a sweat before we're done.

It snowed this weekend. I arrived in Lindstrom on Thanksgiving Day wearing a flannel and cropped pants. No - it was so thin it doesn't deserve to be called a flannel. And Sperrys sans socks. Whoops. The rest of the weekend was spent further north and I had to get creative.

It's not that I dislike winter - I just love fall. Everything prior to Daylight Savings Time is precious and fleeting. So I resist between then and Advent One. Apparently, so does my son.

But if you can get us bundled up and outside, we're happier. We take it all in. We get quiet and point to the moon and smile. We're glad for the chill on our cheeks and our warm ears tucked away from the wind.

We are entering the long and dark season in which things get simple. As Garrison Keillor likes to say, "We're either in here or out there. If we're in here, we're just glad to be in here. And if we're out there, it's all about getting from out there to in here." That's life in Minnesota half the time. It means sweaters and slow cookers and wool socks and candles. It means shoveling and sledding and skiing and scraping your car. The stuff getting on your nerves or demanding your attention back in August is gone. Long gone.

Most people are tired of the phrase "fiscal cliff" and are taking a break from political sniping. We're stoned on turkey. We haven't completely given up hope in our Fantasy Football leagues. We are quiet for a little while before the pulse of Christmas Chaos starts pounding in our heads. For now it is just darkness - the call to resist, the call to surrender, and the palpable waiting that makes this time of year sacred.

We're welcoming a few new members at Zion this Sunday. It's New Year's Day according to the church calendar. It's time to dive into something new - to stake a claim on the future and whatever's coming at us. It's much easier to resist that new life when we're by ourselves - when no one is there to wrestle us into jackets and discipleship. And so we get together and claim allegiance to the beautiful and broken church that makes sure we're never alone. This is where our resistance meets peace - we receive an invitation to surrender to reality: it's cold and dark, but we've got to get out there.

So light a candle and grab your hat.
May this season make space in the noise for quiet.
May it pull you outside where you can point to the moon and smile.

Monday, November 12, 2012

get in where you fit in.

You folks are shy about leaving comments on this blog. My little statistics suggest that I have more than 200 regular readers, but usually it's a text message or an email. I love that quiet support. You reflect about the work I do or my silly kid or my honesty about the hard and beautiful stuff. And many of you ask how you can help. You want a taste of Zion. You gave a combined $1,000 toward the Lyndale Community Dinner after reading this post. You're part of this now.

We have two big events coming up in the Zion community and you can be a part of them! There's lots to do and, somehow, stuff like this always comes together at the end in wild ways. You seem to like that kind of story, so maybe you'd like to be part of one with me. Know that this manna and mercy is for you, too.

The Lyndale Community Thanksgiving Eve Dinner - November 21st 
We need all kinds of food delivered by this Sunday. Several medium sized turkeys. Dozens of 5 lb. bags of potatoes, dinner rolls, and cookies. Pumpkin and apple pies. Large tubs of Cool Whip. We need people to show up early to help set up. We need people to clear dishes during the meal and dishwashers back in the kitchen. We need people to come and be friendly. We need folks to play games with kids - because Lord knows kids are too squirmy to sit at the table for a whole turkey dinner.

The ZOOM House Christmas Party - December 13 
Did you know Santa Claus is a member of Zion? He is. Santa Dan wears red suspenders year round and, in his heyday was the premier Santa Claus of the upper midwest. Print, commercials, Southdale Mall - the works. He'll be there handing out gifts. We need salads and desserts and punch and kitchen helpers and games and people who like watching children feel remember, worthy, and loved. I can't wait because December 13 is my baptism birthday and I know this will be the world's best way to celebrate.

Both of these events will be held in Zion's Banquet Room. You park in the lot on the north side of the building and enter through the blue door. We're down the stairs - just follow the noise. And then you're in. Because if you come in the blue door - the least churchy looking door on the whole building - that means you're one of us. You belong. You're part of the glorious mess and the wide community of Zion.

But first, call Deana at (612) 824-1017.
Call my fearless Parish Administrator, who moonlights as the ZOOM Board Director. She has sign up sheets and all kinds of ideas about how best to help and give and participate. She'll make sure you get a cool job that makes you feel part of things - whether you live down the street or across the country.

These are just two ways to celebrate the season of generosity, but there are plenty out there. I just hope you get in where you fit in this winter. And when you do, send me a shy comment about what that looks like in your life. I want to hear your Banquet Room stories, too. Blessings!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the village

I struggle with the balance of a good and busy life. The funny and defensive layers of this hybrid life ebb and flow. Right now I'm in a defensive place (with a side dish of shoulder-shrug).

I read this blog today. A friend posted it on Facebook and many women I admire had already commented. But I never just happen to read a blog. Being a working mom means a few things have to stop before I start anything spontaneous and personal. So I stopped chopping onions for beef stroganoff. I set aside the meeting notes I was simultaneously preparing. (Because, yes.  I do have a meeting with my music director in my living room on a Saturday.) I listened for Jasper's cough on the baby monitor to see if he would fall back asleep or not. And then I read it.

There are a lot of beautiful women in my life pregnant or in the adoption process right now. They're navigating parental leave and childcare and part-time employment options. And, while I'm usually quite chatty and the first to explode with my own personal opinion about their ideas, I zip it while they share.

I had some hurtful things said to me while I was pregnant.  A few people critiqued my plan and my vocations and the way we would go about paying for and arranging childcare for Jasper once he arrived. And that never really goes away. Partly because I still remember the exact words that meant well, but hurt badly. Partly because raising a kid means you will always feel judged - both by what people have to say directly to you and by people who make different choices and then imply that theirs are superior to yours. This is hard on women whose emotional armor consists of:

  1. A fierce commitment to multiple vocations
  2. Self-depricating humor
  3. Chocolate

I still watch Grey's Anatomy. I know. Matt would tell me to deny this fact instead of leaking it on the internet. And if watching the show isn't enough, I cried during the most recent episode. Meredith is a surgeon (an attending) and a proud mama. She's new in her leadership role and not used to the new level of on-call responsibility coupled with her husband traveling more often. She passes her potty training daughter off to friends and interns all day long - torn between mama guilt and the value of her other, also urgent vocation.

Others are happy to oblige, but a mentor pulls her aside at the end and gives her a pep talk. "You're an attending now. You need a deeper bench." She hands Meredith her list of tested babysitters. Treasure. She's about to build a village. That will mean being vulnerable and asking for help and depending on a wider community and missing some really great stuff. It's not right for everybody, but it's right for her. And it will be right for her daughter, too.

Today Jasper is napping in the pack 'n' play in the basement so I can have a meeting upstairs. And he loves it - his basement den. Monday and Tuesday I will have to pry him from my body and leave him at daycare for 8 hours. That hurts, but not for long. I'm the parent who stands outside the toddler room faux-checking my email until he stops crying, then sneaks a peek at her happy little boy who's tears are suddenly gone. Within two minutes, he's moved on. He's playing with fabulous toys and exploring with friends and giving kisses away like candy in a parade. Once I see that resilience, I head outside ready to  do a little ass-kicking myself.

I miss him completely about two nights each week. I'm at meetings or the community dinner or recovery worship. I have to wait until morning to see his eyes - signs of unbound forgiveness and proof that daycare is actually really awesome. That's two nights excluding a social life, so I have trouble choosing time with friends and hair appointments over legos and bath toys.

Grandparents get Wednesdays and Thursdays. They are pushovers who specialize in snacks and field trips and building forts. He is cuddled and read to and they speak his language of grunts and nods. Every week these five people tell me that they are blessed by my child - they love this time with him and love me for making him. Yeah. You're welcome.

We have three clutch babysitters. I won't give their numbers to just anyone. They have saved my life on more than one occasion. They inspire me to put eye shadow and heels on. I want to look fabulous while I spend $12/hour in addition to whatever the heck I'm doing out of the house. I'm just glad I don't have Goldfish in my purse while I do it.

Our village is too massive to name here. There are brothers and sisters and godparents and friends and aunties who make this hectic life possible. Matt and I were both working on Halloween. Three households were willing to watch my Spiderman during the Trick or Treat hours. That's wide grace.

I choose the tears at daycare and the gushing grandparents and my sweet Fridays off with Jasper - just the two of us. I choose a career that means sudden hospital visits and a husband who travels, doing what he loves. That same career invites me to work from home when he is sick and a nursery filled with toys for him during next Tuesday's evening meeting. I choose this little house that bursts with love and fellow villagers seven days a week. I choose all of these things. I am blessed and a blessing. And so is Jasper.

I am still being helped more than I am helping other moms. Sometimes that is the imbalance that discourages me most of all. I am antsy to pass on all the mercy I've received in these first two years of mamahood. But I do believe that the very best help I can give a fellow mom is to be present as she's working out her own choices. I can listen well and I can celebrate the ones that she chooses. No concern. No devil's advocate.  No judgment.

And in a small way, I am becoming part of her village - cheering her on and making room for her to do some ass kicking of her own.

Now if you'll excuse me, my 1:00pm meeting just arrived.