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


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.