Showing posts from 2014


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 throug…

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 …


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 li…


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…


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" …


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 …


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.

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…


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 …


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, sen…


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 concen…

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.

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 Ya…

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 diso…


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…


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 …


"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…


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, p…


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 …


"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 w…

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 Mothe…


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 nat…

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…

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.


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 pe…


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 childca…