Thursday, December 18, 2014

timbrel.


Jasper has one of those paper chain Advent calendars hanging from our dining room wall. Each ring has a Bible story about salvation and we rip one off each night before running upstairs for bedtime stories.

We are, of course, a few rings behind. And he has been requesting the Crossing the Red Sea story for the last few nights. I want the water one again. With grown up Moses.

When I read this story to him, I can feel the Israelites' hearts pounding as they look back toward Egypt. Is this crazy? Will we every get to the other side? Will we drown trying to cross into something new? I can hear the water rushing and feel the mist on my face. Jasper leans into me and points at the angry men in chariots closing in quickly.

And then there is dancing. They sing and shout and play their instruments. They don't have it all figured out just yet and there is plenty of wilderness still to come. But, for a day, there is a timbrel.

I guess that's where we are, too. We have made it through the hardest 10 months of our lives. I have ached and leaked and cried and worried and yelled and given up on the general effectiveness of eye makeup. All this sprinting and flexing and spinning plates has required great vulnerability and humor, deep commitment and cost. We are weary.

But we have made it through 2014! We still love each other and are usually pretty nice to each other, too. And, while part of me would rather dig out a granola bar and weep by myself on the shore for a bit, I have found my timbrel and I am dancing lately. We don't have it all figured out just yet and there's plenty of wilderness to come. But, for now, there is a timbrel.

I have written some about Jasper's transition to Big Brotherhood here at tangled up. It has been a struggle, but not in uncommon ways. It has been exhausting, but not dysfunctional. But this year has been rather heavy laden…until last week when we all came into our skin a bit more.

Especially Jasper.

I was triple tasking in the kitchen this morning when he walked in with his hands behind his back. Mommy, you're doing such a good job holding Solveig and making my breakfast. I want to give you this award. Keep up the good work. He handed me a foam number eight covered in stickers. My beautiful boy was beaming with pride. Then he took his high morale into our bedroom where he congratulated Matt on getting dressed while entertaining Tove.

I listened from the kitchen and danced. I danced because coffee was almost ready and because my moves were making Solveig laugh. But I mostly danced because my son is finding an inner stability and it's waking him up to the world. He's noticing new things with patience and awe. He's really affectionate and quick to tell jokes instead of getting huffy. He's taking the longview more often than your average preschooler. He's giving out awards on Thursday mornings.

We don't have it all figured out just yet and there's plenty of wilderness to come, but there is also much to celebrate. And so these days I keep my timbrel at the top of my backpack. I am ready to dance - in gratitude for the journey and in the face of things to come.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

there will be cake.


Mom, when will be your birthday party?

Well, my birthday was a month ago. I went on a date with Daddy. That was my party.

Oh. But what about cake? 

Thank God for Uncle Bror's birthday just a few days later. 

Jasper wrote B-R-O-R on four balloons that we awkwardly taped to the wall. We baked a box cake, which Matt sort of dropped all over the counter when he tried to flip it. The chunks were reassembled and quickly frosted into a rocky terrain and covered in sprinkles. 

Thank God for sprinkles.

I love cake as much as the next gal, but three year olds know how to demand it as ritual. We baked one for Godparents Day - a noisy celebration of our wide spiritual village. We welcomed new members at Zion with a cake. Cupcakes appear for birthdays and anniversaries at church, which I can rarely decline. 

Mohammad has been coming to the Lyndale Community Dinner for months now. He's originally from Egypt - professional, wise, highly educated - and doing his best to socialize in English so he can become more fluent. I hear you using words that are easier for me. Do not do that - teach me new words so I can understand more. Mohammad's birthday was on Thanksgiving Eve, a festive day complete with hundreds of guests, 15 turkeys, and plenty of pie. And a cupcake, of course. We sang while his face beamed in the midst of new friends and lots of gratitude.

I am thankful for Jasper this season - all the ways he demands celebration and ritual in the midst of our chaos and fatigue. His eyes are bright and his questions are eager, which help me to see the world his way for a change:

we love a lot of people
we have the power to make people feel special
singing together is important
lighting candles forms memories

and if you're feeling really festive…
there will be cake.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

precise.

Leaf hunts. They are keeping me sane while driving me nuts.

It's a good way to kill time in the evening when Matt is gone, the girls are tired, and Jasper is squirrelly. We bundle up and take the stroller out of the garage. While I want Jasper to spend more time on his bike this fall, he usually picks the old trike so I'll push him using the giant handle that comes off the back. While this three-wheeled regression is symbolic of 2014, I'm secretly relieved I can keep them corralled together as we meander the sidewalks and intersections of our neighborhood. 


Jasper is a precise kid. He notices details and defects in each leaf we consider. 
The veins are too spidery.
I don't want it if it's got a lot of holes.
This one is crunchy and not beautiful anymore.
By late fall, it can take an hour to find three leaves worthy of the little trunk on his Radio Flyer. 

These persnickety opinions probably irritate me because he's a lot like me. I like categories and I notice little things. I have strong feelings and I can appear brash while sharing them. But this also means I'm decisive and confident. I'm aware and interested. So I decide to see these things in my leaf hunter, too.

Jasper had a hard time leaving our pumpkins outside again last night. He knows we're not saving them for Halloween anymore, but he's afraid of the havoc squirrels will wreak while he sleeps. He'd rather watch them rot slowly in our entryway.
Are you afraid the pumpkins will die?
No. I'm afraid of their die surprising me.
Like so many before him, he's lusting after the crummy familiar in the face of the unknown. He knows these pumpkins won't last forever, but he needs to see their decline with his own eyeballs. He wants to feel like he's in control during their demise.

Today is All Saints Sunday, which has me thinking about those who only come to church for funerals. They only hear about death and resurrection in the face of an actual death and an unsubstantiated resurrection. They see the church in this really honest paradox of mystery and conviction.

We are certain that baptism joins us to Christ's death and resurrection.
We are confident about God's reputation to deliver and set free.
We are convinced there is good reason to forgive and feast and remember.

But we also wander in the wilderness.
We rebuke greeting cards with chintzy theology.
We are willing to live in the gray - with precarious pumpkins and crunchy leaves.

My desire for precision does not dissipate with time, but it is eased by a faith and vocation that make their home in the gray. God has designed me with precise opinions and ideas, but calls me instead to the murky places where life and beauty are fluid.

Today Jasper found a leaf that was crunchy and filled with veins. Its stem was bent and the brilliant orange was speckled with holes. I reached for it and took a closer look.
You don't want that one, Mommy. It's ugly. 
I don't know, Jasper. I think this leaf looks brave. I think it fed a hungry caterpillar and waved in the breeze and gave us shade from the sun before flying off that tree and coming down to make music under our feet. I think it had a beautiful life and I want to carry it around for a little while.
He looked at me and the maple tree for a few moments while my words bounced around in his head. And then, without examining it himself, opened the trunk of his trike and put my leaf next to the others.

Friday, October 3, 2014

trust.

This YouTube clip is totally worth twelve seconds of your life.


I admire her fierce trust. It's clear she is willing to give it a shot without all the information at hand. Why? Because the people around her have her back (though, not her front).

I ask people to trust me all day long. Trust me, even though organized religion has failed you in terrible, hurtful ways. Trust me, even though it's hard to be vulnerable and I've been your pastor for less than three years. Trust me, even though they make iPhones older than me. Trust me, even though I can't tell you what's coming down the pipe. I'm flying blind sometimes, too.

We are embarking on a Capital Appeal process this fall. Two very different projects will come together and get tangled up in the stewardship and dreams of this tiny congregation. Why? Because if a church this size is going to do a Capital Appeal, it needs to unite the young and the old, the new and familiar, the nostalgic and skeptical.

Some would rather just support the explicit and traditional project regarding stained glass window repairs. This project makes perfect sense to our long time members, who are amazed at the cost but not swayed by it.

Others are energized by conversation about a more flexible sanctuary layout. New carpet? A combination of chairs and pews? What if we could face the high altar one season and be curved together more intimately around the Word and Sacraments another season? Can we move the organ and the choir? Where could rocking chairs go?

Nothing has been decided about that second project - it's just the beginning of a conversation about what's possible. But it was enough to make a few sweat bullets and pull away. Please don't change anything. It's beautiful the way it already is. I'm scared about what might happen.

And so I called to invite them together for an afternoon of listening. I have no hidden agenda. I'll just hear your feelings and answer your questions. You have a voice.

This olive branch startled them and they dared to show up. Together we cried and laughed and wondered about why change is so hard. And trust was built. I could feel it rising up around us, keeping us safe and loved despite our differences. They understood why the projects would hang together and were ready to share their unique voices while making unity a priority.

We hugged before they left and something was different - in that moment, the fear was gone.

- - - 

I ask Jasper to trust me everyday, too. I invite his vulnerability, feelings, and words about how much has changed in eight months. He is usually wonderful with the girls and surprises us with his creativity and maturity about two new sisters in our midst. I am proud of the way his is processing much of this.

But it's hard when slobbery babies touch your stuff. It annoying when their naps determine where you play and how loudly. It's frustrating when your mom takes you to Target and all she gets is $134.72 worth of formula and baby food before steering the cart right past every awesome toy you don't yet own.

These inconveniences are producing epic tantrums that are well calculated and designed by a bright, beautiful boy. Most of my parenting strategies for these moments rise and fall within a week or so, but inviting trust always remains.

Trust my arms that ache to hold you before you are ready.
Trust my promises to wait while you work out big things.
Trust my warnings that offer good choices and mantras.
Trust my consequences,
  for you have seen Ninja Turtle Go-gurt thrown out the back door.
Trust my patient love, which will outlast every weary fight.
Trust my fingers that wipe away tears of every emotion you blare.
Trust my calm voice, my safe lap, my smooth lips on your head.
Trust my fierce love that never flinches in the face of your volume.

Trust my joy
  when I catch you doing brilliant, funny, thoughtful things.
Trust my awe
  when I watch your face changing as you grow.
Trust my interest
  in what you create, learn, feel, wonder, ask, play, sing.
Trust my gratitude
  for you every night as I tuck you into bed smiling.

For I love you for every reason under the sun, but also for weathering this massive change with me. You embody all kinds of things I feel when the choices are too few, the fatigue is too great, the babies are too loud, and the days are too short. This too shall pass, Jasper. But you will always be mine and I will always work hard for your trust.

God, give me the patience, wisdom, and strength to be trusted by many. By those I lead and serve, by those who give their fragile hearts to my care, and by those who live inside me though they walk about the earth. And may my trust be tangled up in your holy peace, so that I can fall forward with confidence. Amen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

weaning.

I don't think pastors mean to hyper-function in the fall, but we do. It spills over into programming and ambition that demands the attention of everyone in the pews and on the mailing list: Rally Day! Big events! Special Sundays! Capital appeals! Aggressive fellowship! Sunday School Revamp! Every summer I mean to avoid this sprint into autumn…and every September I realize I'm already 50 meters in.

I have told you about Zion's tired leaders. We don't need more to do and so the big experiments are happening in place of things that are dying or stagnate already:

Third Sunday Bible Studies are now a collaboratively hosted confirmation program for all ages. Competition, Lutherisms, and baptismal promises rediscovered - but mostly story telling, faith sharing, and eating soup together. Some might come from Bethlehem and I will only be leading a few sessions.

Only one or two of our Sunday School kids can attend on Sunday mornings this fall. So what if "Sunday School" is on Wednesday evenings before the community dinner? What if parents have the option to hang out during it? What if older kids help and neighbor kids wander in?

After three years of polka on Rally Day, we decided to invite the MN Adult & Teen Challenge Choir to lead worship with us this morning. They shared stories and sang for us - we shared communion and a good word about Abraham's blessing. I could hear them resonating with the Recovery Worship elements that were present in the service. Some live just a few blocks away and I know they'll be back.

Several of us hosted a space at Nicollet Open Streets this afternoon. Jasper provided warm hospitality to everyone under 40" in height while we helped kids make bracelets, apply fake tattoos, and told them about the little church just 2 blocks away.  Together we created a prayer garland filled with hopes, dreams, and peace. It adored the ugly shed and fence behind our table, an eyesore that has always longed for TLC. After a few hours, I stepped back and just watched - the people of Zion are so good at loving their neighbors without a hidden agenda or motivation. 

I am trying to step back more often these days. As I bless leaders releasing their dutiful burdens at Zion, I am watching them rediscover what excites them. They bumble while asking for permission to do the most beautiful, spirit-led things. And then I do my best to say YES! OF COURSE! without stepping any closer. I am weaning from so much doing and finally learning to lead.

* * *

Sometimes when I come home late in the day, the girls don't want to nap. Instead, they want to be held on each hip and smothered in kisses while they bury their milky mouths in my neck. I can feel their fatigue through the giggles, but they do not give in. Cuddling takes priority.

So my aching body held them all evening - while directing train table traffic with Jasper, while microwaving another mediocre dinner, while talking to Matt as he sat in the Michigan airport, while singing grace, while watering the grass seed. 

It was uncomfortable holding their wiggly bodies to my chest because I am weaning them as well. I am retiring from the dairy business this weekend, which is emotional but welcome. It has been a privilege to feed people - to nourish them with my body. Everything about carrying and laboring and feeding these girls has been intense compared to Jasper and life before babies. Stepping away from that causes me to ache - mostly because life in hours and ounces has been my habitat and vocation for so long. But also because I will never share my body like this again and there is great grief in letting go.

I put them to bed and then lay down on the living room floor, my back relieved by the clock and the silence. Laundry! Dishes! Trash! Unpack the van! Roll up the hose! Mail pile! Wash bottles! Pump!

The list echoed in my head, but I decided to stay on the ground until I could hear my own body and the inner voice I'd been missing. So I listened for a rhythm beyond hours and ounces that used to guide me through the day. I took deep breaths when the list got loud and waited patiently for my body to tell me something - anything - I'd been ignoring for all these months. I cried a lot. And then I heard her:

Thank you for listening.
Welcome back.
Did you know you have to pee?
Also, there are ice cream sandwiches in the freezer.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

226.

Today the air is heavy and moist. I walked by the river all morning. The flowers are changing this week…not that I'm a master gardener. But each August, the hydrangeas turn green, the tiger lilies dry up, and the black-eyed Susans erupt. Summer is almost over! it screams to ensure I don't blink and miss it. The parkway smells like wet earth. It reminds me of early mornings at a campsite when everything is damp, but the oatmeal and flannel shirt warm you up.


Later this afternoon, once the kids were safely in the hands of grandparents, I drove 226 miles west. Matt usually drives my Corolla these days, so the car and I were like old friends reunited. Music blared and the warm wind whipped in and out of my hair. Chaska. Glencoe. Olivia. Marshall. I slowed down in each, taking in the old signs and friendly faces.

I have deep memories of these roads that lead through southwest Minnesota. We spent many summer weekends in Cottonwood when I was growing up. Street dances and corn feeds were magical events. I remember chiggers stuck to my legs after a lake swim and hours tossing water balloons. Cousins I now call friends seemed light-years older than me. I wrote my name on the chalkboard inside the Little Red Schoolhouse every summer, in awe of my own addition to the infinite memories that place held for my family.

The wind farms just east of Tyler were beautiful. The clouds rolled above us, stirring my songs and my memories. They propelled me across the boarder somewhere brand new.

And then I checked into my hotel. Though the rich yellows and greens of the plains know my heart and my ancestry, I was still a tired City Mouse without children underfoot(!)  So I fell into a king-sized bed of pillows and fluff. I buried my head in the covers and disappeared for 8 hours.

Alone. At peace. Completely still. And maybe (just a little) lonely.

This is only the second time I've had so much sleep in a full year. My body and mind are always carrying more than themselves - and have been for quite awhile. But, for a night, it was just me and the plains and a bed to myself. I did not listen for whimpers or crying. I did not write sermons or do dishes or vacuum or take phone calls. And I did not rise until I was ready.

From this place of restoration, I ironed my clerical wear and my alb, signs of just one of my calls. I dressed for the ordination of a friend and spent the morning listening to his promises, his gifts, and his willingness. It made me feel grateful and glad.

And then I drove 226 miles back through open fields and small towns, into the warm and wet heat of the city. And there I gathered beloved babies into my arms. They giggled to each other and nestled into my neck. They did not know how far I'd gone, but they were so glad to have me back. Before dark we walked through the yard with them, pointing out the verdant hydrangeas, the wrinkled tiger lilies, and the joyful black-eyed Susans. Don't blink, girls, or you'll miss it.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

bath.

Solveig and Tove,

Last Sunday was beautiful. It was a clash of worlds in the best kind of way.

Baptism is one of those moments when the universal and the abstract become acutely personal and tangible. We gathered for worship on the lawn with stones in hand at 10:00am. These stones represented the heavy, sinful, and worrisome things we carried with us that morning. And then, during the confession, we let them sink into the font. Water rushed over them and the Promise defeated their power. They rested below as I splashed you and people vowed to support you in faith.

Sacraments are supposed to be both mysterious and simple, but sometimes they are just plain confusing instead. So I want to be clear about why you were baptized on Sunday July 27, 2014.

Solveig with a disapproving look. Too bad, honey. God chooses you!

Tove is surprised and whimpers until her hair is dry again. Glamour first.
We care about your sense of self getting tangled up with the Holy Story. You are bound to ask the four big questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? What's my purpose? Where do I find hope? You will find friends, hobbies, and clubs along the way. This is different. Baptism declares your deep belovedness over and over, forever and ever.

We care about your sense of community getting tangled up with Jesus. The fastest growing demographic in America is people who have never experienced genuine community before. Many in our generation are aching for something they've never known and don't know how to describe. The same will be true of you and your peers. And so we are introducing you to the community Jesus creates  across time and space. Your Godparents have made your family a little bigger, signs of the way Christ knits us together as the Body. This community is good, Dear Ones. You don't need to wait to choose it later on - God is already choosing you and that's the whole point. You will find belonging and purpose here from the very beginning.

We care about your sense of God becoming scriptural, not just skeptical. People say all kinds of things about God - usually without being in relationship with God. So we will teach you the story and you will become familiar with God's reputation for coming down, startling systems, and saving us all the time. You will know that God always chooses working with us over efficiency. God finishes things we can't and trumps things we fear. That's a God worth knowing and proclaiming.

Baptism will not remove the obstacles or pain that awaits you in this life. But it does cover you with strength and grace to move through it. It does promise that you are never alone, forever tangled up with a holy identity, home, purpose, and mission. It does mean you are surrounded by voices and hands and hearts that will challenge and champion you. It does declare God's dying and rising love for you - universal and abstract, but also intensely personal and tangible.

You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. (Whether you like it or not.)  Thank God!

Love, Rev. Mom

Thursday, July 31, 2014

weeds.

I'm learning about the difference between technical and adaptive challenges this week. I'm reflecting about all the quick fixes and surface treatments church folk use to deny systemic issues and avoid real loss. Sounds fun, right?

And so I find myself thinking about church while pulling weeds with Jasper tonight. He yanks them out by the leaves, but the roots remain buried deep between the cracks of stones and steps in our backyard. He's eager to make a pile and have something to show for his work.

I don't blame him. It takes time to get at the roots! Your fingernails get dirty and you need tools from the garage. This is slow work, surrounding the stems with your patience and perseverance before a tug sets them free and they head to the bucket. Going deep is hard.

I'm also learning about how to listen to the longings of others who are not yet in church community. I'm learning things I already know, but have had no language for:

People have come to the church in search of their 'belovedness' - affirmation that they are known and claimed and chosen and saved by a God who loves them fiercely - and instead we hand them importance and duties.
Until our longings match or outweigh our fear of loss, we cannot access the new behaviors necessary for saying YES to the Spirit's call.
Good faith leaders help people recognize their giftedness in, but especially beyond, the congregation.  
The largest growing demographic in America is people who have never experienced genuine community before. They are longing to be listened to and told about their belovedness.
Church goers have long been able to articulate the importance of membership, but not the benefits, the transformation, or the joy. In a corporate sense, they are disconnected from the call they received in baptism to Live, Hear, Proclaim, Serve, and Work for the sake of the Kingdom.
I'm learning (again) that it's easy to pull weeds out by the leaves. It's much harder to poke around at the roots: wondering about systems, listening well, asking courageous questions, and casting a vision that might face some opposition. It's much harder to look at people who are comfortable doing church and teach them how to be the church.

We are a bunch of pastors sitting in a room at the Hilton. Our brains are spinning about our leaders, our challenges, our dreams, and our fears. We are inspired, but tired when we start to think about the work ahead of us. Mission development and redevelopment is exciting, but exhausting work.

But then you go home and you sift through your mail pile. And you find proof that the Spirit is stirring up baptismal promises. It is causing a witness to be proclaimed. It has leaders restless and eager and refreshed by the water and the Word.


I cried reading Carolyn and Stan's letters to my children. They are already keeping promises and being the church and going deep by confessing the power of community and sacrament. They are leaning into the idea that baptism is a new beginning for Solveig and Tove, but also for their leadership and faith.

1 Peter says,
"Be ready to give an account of the joy that is within you."

And so it is not about the pile of leaves, the quick fixes, or the sense of importance. It is about the belovedness. It is about listening to each other and then proclaiming that which is beautiful and holy because God is among us. It is about dirty fingernails and a spade gentle and firm. It is about leaders who can

testify to the joy and go down to the roots.

Monday, July 14, 2014

sleep.

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

paint.

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 flesh...how 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

tree.

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.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

beep.

My love for little Tove is wrapped up in those early days at the Special Care Nursery. Visiting your child means you feel like both vagabond and queen. Each morning I packed my back of food, pumping parts, baby gear, and big sister Solveig for several hours near machines and wise nurses. Each day was about gaining confidence and breath.

I'm so grateful for the SCN, which caught things this sleepy mom would not. Tove had a very low resting heart rate and forgot to breathe sometimes. Her little body was a bit immature and she needed to grow into some basic skills before coming home with us.

I watched her mouth turn blue on three occasions. Once I was alone with her when the beeping began and I couldn't jostle her back into breath. I ruffled the scruff on her neck and begged her to breathe. But she didn't comply until a nurse intervened. Remembering those moments still makes my voice quiver and my eyes well up. I am grateful for this Peanut Brittle and the color that filled her face again each time.

This apnea process has been both scary and reassuring. She's always been in good hands. We were well trained to bring her home with us. The monitor gave us three months of good confidence - we slept well on the quiet nights and were up in an instant whenever we heard beeps.

On Friday her nurse called and gave me the big news: we could stop monitor use immediately! Someone would come pick it up on Monday. I was thrilled, of course. The false alarms are annoying and the chord is never quite long enough. She's been doing really well and we knew the day was coming. But as much as I hated the monitor, I also loved it. I relied on it for deep sleep and some assurance that the littlest one was still with us.

I thanked her and said goodbye while wanting to celebrate a new beginning - while becoming ready to banish the fear and lean forward into this gift of new life.

But when I hung up the phone, I noticed a text message from Matt: "Grandpa Wally died at noon."

Matt's grandfather has had a really low heart rate for the past year - as low as 22 beats per minute on one occasion. I remember his grey skin and slow speech last autumn. Dementia symptoms increased and his physical balance disintegrated over the winter months. Last week he broke bones in a gruesome fall. After thirteen months as a widower, Wally's slow beats gave way to to beeps.

During the funeral yesterday, I starting thinking about Wally's view of life and death this spring. He met the girls just once - a few weeks ago - but was certain he'd seen them dozens of times. He was impressed with little Tove's alert eyes and sneaky smiles. And he was confident about her progress regarding the monitor. "Oh yes, she's doing just fine. She's going to be just fine," he'd say.

After the service I watched Tove with awe and gratitude. She was passed around freely from aunt to cousin to friend without the short leash of monitor wires slowing her down. Oh yes, I said to myself. She's doing just fine. She's going to be just fine. And then I banished the fear and leaned forward into this gift of new life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

kite.

"K is for Kite."

Little kids know all about kites, but you rarely see kids actually flying kites these days. At least not in the city. On Sunday night we took a stroller ride around the neighborhood. It's how we kill time during the evening witching hour. It's how we keep the girls content while burning Jasper's energy. It's how we entertain our neighbors who sit outside enjoying retirement with whiskey and cigars. Bastards.

We were a few blocks from home when we ran into a gaggle of boys - cousins all trying to fly a cheap kite behind a bike. Jasper was enthralled and we watched for over an hour. Most of the time was spent untangling the string or throwing sticks at a tree to get it down. Adults would drive and bike by, remembering their own childhood antics and joyfully offering to help. But the boys refused politely each time. This was their kite, their adventure.

This may have been the first real kite in Jasper's world, which seemed a bit pathetic. So last night we invested in a Lightening McQueen kite from the Dollar Tree and set him up with some low expectations on the way to the park.

It might not fly. It might fall apart. The string might get tangled up. 

Our tidy little boy likes to know all the possibilities before venturing into a new situation. While we prepared for him to be bored or disappointed, he skipped down the sidewalk, eager to let it rip.

And it soared! I don't want to brag, but my husband can fly a mean kite while wearing a baby in a front carrier. Jasper squealed and chased it. He talked to the kite and Matt steered it away from the soccer games nearby. Other kids wandered over to see the kite and clapped when it rose higher than the school's roof.

"That kite is so cool, Mister!" And then the coach called the child's attention back to the game. My husband: Mister-Cool-Kite-Guy.

These evenings have been hard. And loud. And demanding. But for a moment, I saw Matt as a little boy, running and flying and free to play in the spring's dusk light. Jasper danced around in his shadow, thrilled from head to toe. I smiled at the crummy little kite flying higher than our meager expectations, catching us all by surprise.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

tomb.

I used to see new moms pushing strollers on long walks and think, "Wow. She is brave and awake and rocking this." But then I became one of those stroller ladies and realized it's quite the opposite. We are stir crazy and lonely and desperate for sunshine. We are tired of people always touching us, so we put our spawn into strollers and push them down the street - a metaphor for the space and freedom we desire.

It is also true that traffic and earbuds make it nearly impossible to hear that one of your children isn't enjoying the stroller ride. Thus, you continue strolling for your own sake, pretending everyone is having a ball.

When they're all bundled up, I have a hard time telling these two apart. Little noses peer out from their fuzzy tombs. They are safe and warm, being transformed into someone new at every moment. They are my Easter hymns.

The den at my house has been my winter tomb. I am usually on the couch holding a baby or two, changing a diaper or two, pumping a liter or two. People come and go, visiting and helping, but I usually remain. I have only wandered out of this maternal hibernation of babies and errands for a few worship services now, but with each trip to Zion part of me is resurrected.

Maybe that sounds silly. I have been so grateful for this family leave and these weeks apart from work. I am glad for the bonding time with the girls, and also with Jasper. I am happy about my wide village and the time I've been able to spend with them. I wouldn't change a thing.

But I have missed that other vocation.

So as often as I am touched and feeding at home, I come alive when I touch and feed folks at church. Every handshake and hug invites me back into this ministry. Every piece of bread given today felt more miraculous than it usually does.

At brunch my family members asked about Easter at Zion:

Do you always have that many dogs in worship?
Why was that guy with the cane crying?
I heard someone say that Zion is a healing place after all his church has been through this year.
Do you ache at the thought of Jill and David returning to Ohio in June?
Who was that guy in costume who kept hugging you?
Was it okay for that one lady to touch Solveig's face so much? 
...and that other lady almost spilled hot coffee on her…

Easter at Zion has trumpets and lilies, but it also has grief and schizophrenia. It has life long members and dear ones who will soon transition away from us. It has egg hunts for kids who get forgotten by the Easter bunny. It has a beautiful, young Muslim woman watching your children in the nursery. It has a Jewish woman singing lovely solos. It has an organ with a sticky siphon we pray over.

It has all kinds of people God loves crawling out of winter's tomb and up to the altar for bread. It has all kinds of people who are stir crazy and lonely and desperate for sunshine.

And so it is the place for me, too.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

melting.

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

Five.

"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

anything.


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.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

a & b.

34 weeks & 2 days.


This is where you live, A. 
Quietly, but urgently.
It is clear you will set the pace for our Olympic team of three.
I will breathe deeply and follow.


This is where you live, B.
Always dancing and stirring.
I will expect the unexpected when it comes to you.
I am along for the ride.

brassy.

I fear I become a brassy know-it-all right before giving birth.

I'm impatient and tired. Sleeping in 30 minute intervals and using the restroom round the clock makes me feel snarky and demanding. Thus, I have words for the House and Senate as we approach the January 15 stopgap spending bill deadline.

My whole professional career has been during this recession, which has made me a crafty saver and a thoughtful spender. My husband and I are probably over-educated for our respective earning potential, but love what we do and that's what matters.

I get frustrated watching our leaders whine and butt heads about this country's finances, as though everyone needs to get what they want and their reelection is our collective priority. So here are my suggestions, you stumped politicians. Take 'em or leave 'em.

1. Fall in love with someone who differs from you politically. Pull a Carville | Matalin and figure out how to be passionate about the issues and respectful about the people. Learn to play Devil's Advocate well. Begin to believe that there are smart people out there who think differently than you do.

2. Sign a legal document that ties you to them for life and sleep with them. That's when you know it's not just posturing! I think this would work well among our nation's politicians. Stop sleeping with your aides and nannies and instead draw names with your colleagues across the aisle. You'd probably get more accomplished and we wouldn't have to hear so much about your Twitter feeds and sleazy emails.

3. Try running a business (or pastoring a church) that makes miracles happen on a shoestring budget. Budgets aren't just about slashing or just about handouts. They're about careful generosity. They're about planning well and having really hard conversations. They're about faithful flexibility. And when you find that sweet spot between responsibility and extravagant relationships, there's nothing partisan about it.

4. Accidentally get pregnant with twins. While you're trying to balance a tiny business' or congregation's budget, find out your personal budget is about to get blown out of the water by 20 diapers a day and two more mouths to feed. Then take a Xanax, buck up, and get to work with your partner across the aisle. Together you'll figure out something that works without bickering and blaming. Why's that? Because you'll be in it together, silly. You'll be rooting for each other and your collective future.

5. Stop leaning so heavily into deadlines and the eleventh hour. Getting pregnant with twins will be good practice for this - especially if you're orchestrating your own parental leave logistics while balancing these budgets and loving someone across the aisle. With multiples, your due date doesn't mean much, so you can't take that third trimester for granted. You work ahead and you work hard. You communicate well and do your best to make sure people aren't left in the lurch if you run out of time.

So there you have it. My brassy, bossy, Big Mama opinions about January 15 and life in general. If these kids come soon, you won't have to deal with another outburst from me this winter…but aren't you glad you got this one?

Monday, January 6, 2014

brrr.

My Facebook newsfeed is filled with midwesterners commenting about the weather. It's cold. It's polar vortex cold. Minneapolis Public Schools are closed and many are working from home today. Local and national news can't stop talking about the deep freeze, offering common sense advice for people who drive cars and manage functional thermostats and have the luxury of either going out or staying in.

But there is little chatter and news coverage about the ones this brutal weather actually affects. Buses are still running and people are still waiting at stops. Urban shelters are overwhelmed and some are still turned away. Social services are stepping up, doing what they can. Single moms who need milk or formula today might bundle up all three kids and walk several blocks to the store to get what they need.

I am not concerned about people driving insured cars with emergency kits in the trunk or folks working from home. I have some empathy for parents scrambling to find childcare today, but they will be inconvenienced, not physically unsafe.

It is cold, but we are Minnesotans, people. Buck up. Embrace the polar vortex and turn the focus. It's a chance to shiver in awe of this wild world and all the things we cannot control. We are called to slow and hunker and care for the safety of one another.

If you live in the Twin Cities and see someone who may be homeless and struggling today, read this and call the number for help.