gingerbread

The ground keeps shifting.

For awhile shifting was something that felt important to resist. With change comes loss and grief about that loss. Letting go of what was in order to live what is felt somehow wrong or disloyal.

I spent precious energies trying to recreate what can never be again and in that insistence upon constancy I forgot the core constant: The ground keeps shifting.

Anything that cannot change will die. Biological truth is making its way to my heart.

Around the table at Thanksgiving were beloveds. Some were missing. Those not present were joining other families or they were doing what felt important to them. Next year the same will be true. There will be those who are there and those not there and rather than lament or rail or whimper about what is not my heart was and is so full of what is.

I am able to set a table and there are those who come.

The wonder of it.

At church, in my home, and through my heart I am able to set a table and there are those who come.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

dog friend

We waited (and waited and WAITED) for the right time to find a dog friend.

Our old black lab still lives largely in our hearts. We wanted to give some time for grieving to be. Truthfully, Cooper was much more attentive to the wait business than I was.

So we began to look. We fell truly in love with a black lab/great Dane mix at the Animal Humane society in Minneapolis. We were at the sign the contract stage when we discovered that she already had been claimed by another family. That was hard.

We waded through the considerable angst of Jameson’s illness, found ourselves with a week at the cabin and decided that we would check out the local dog scene.

There was a lab/great Dane mix in Cloquet, so we drove there and were ready to fall in love.

We did fall in love, but not with the dog we expected. That dog was HUGE and not too interested in anything but jumping.

We walked through the shelter. There were many dogs. But the one that caught my tender husband’s heart was a flat-out mutt with the most soulful eyes in dogdom. His name was “Carl”. He looked the part (no offense to any Carls out there!).

He is a mix of Pit Bull and Retriever and Cooper swears Foxhound (ask him why that is so. His imagination is boundless). He is a little over a year, has known two different owners and was, from the behavioral signs, mightily abused.

During our discernment time we were able to spend time with him out of his cage. He crawled on his belly to meet us, his eyes full of love and his body not sure that anything but misery was coming his way.

Of course he went home with us.

We spent the night trying to convince him he could not move into our skin. He is huge of heart, needful of training, and our dog.

What is it about being a dog household? Somehow heart is expanded exponentially and hearth is furred and grounded in ways mysterious and real.

Mickey is home. We have much to learn together but this I know:

Mickey is home.

in a name

At the hospital where son Jameson stayed, there was a white board.

On the white board there was a spot for writing the names of contact people for the patient.

In said spot for said son, there were three names written, each with a different last name.

What’s in a name?

While going through the shatter that is divorce, it feels like the word “family” will be forever grief soaked. The days of assumed roles and relationships are forevermore gone. There is a deep sense of loss in that. The “who are we now?” is question near desperate for answer.

And, resurrection is real.

Those three last names? They represent a dad and a mom and a step-father committed to the body-soul-mind health of our beloved. Those three last names represent a tribe of people who are committed to companioning each other through love and life.

Three last names represent family in all of its complex stunning foibled power.

What’s in a name (s)?

Family. Our family.

Our answer.

vigil keeping

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”. John Lennon

In the thread-the-needle that is daily life scheduling, this summer was planned oh so carefully.

And then life happened.

Having just come out of the Boundary Waters with a group of youth I received a text: Son Jameson was in the emergency room with unspecified misery.

The drive home was endless. He was discharged. He was brought back the next day with more howling pain and admitted to the hospital and is yet at home recovering.

This on top of the death of my nephew has stuttered my life-cramming ways.

I was supposed to attend a conference in southern Wisconsin. I had looked forward to it all summer.

I didn’t go. I stayed home and kept vigil and thanked God for the opportunity to be present to my son and to the needs of my heart.

Really. Conferences and calendar cramming will all pass away.

People do too.

Having witnessed the searing pain of son loss, I got to son tend.

Life happens.

home

Carole King’s Tapestry album was the soundtrack for my teens.  The album somehow found each part of me and gave it voice.

One of the songs that has been sounding in my being this past week is the song “Home Again”.  It begins: “Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to make it home again, it’s so far and out of sight.  I really need someone to talk to and nobody else knows how to comfort me tonight.”

Besides the fact that the song is soul-woven, it has sung in my heart because of the power of the story of the Prodigal.  Jesus tells a story about a man who loses himself in the so-many distractions that can lead us to groundlessness.  Jesus tells us that the man “came to himself” and decided that he wanted to return home to the place where he is known and taken in, stupendous stumbles and all.

It is our story in so many ways, is the story of the Prodigal.  We sing the song of “Home Again” so many times in our lives.

We wander seeking home throughout our lives.  We convince ourselves that home can be found in chemicals or time fritters or shopping or something someplace someway that will take away the great lonely of living.  We wander and long and wonder and then, oh then, we come to ourselves and remember Home.

Home in the great expanse of the Holy whose song dances through us yet.  Home in the wrap of claiming and welcome that awaits us if we would but cease our scurry.

Home in the heart of God;  taken in, welcomed and fussed over are we.

Home.

Advent 18

My mom is coming for Christmas.

It’s a seemingly simple sentence dense in power.

We are, we two, not unlike lots of moms and daughters.  We have spent the 55 years of my life clashing wills and life views.

My mother is a woman who knows with certainty what is seemly and what is not and her surety has extended to the needful state of cupboards (pristine!) and planned menus for each meal.

Her daughter?  Not so much.  For some reason my mother was presented with a girl-child who resisted blacks and whites and rebelled against imposed order.

We have lived, we two, a challenge.

I don’t know what it is about mothers and daughters.  The desire to protect, the temptation to create in our own image or the image of what we wish we had been able to able to call our own; so many things swirl beneath the surface of this elemental heart dance.

What I know is that my relationship with my mother affects my daughters and will affect their daughters.  If there is work to do, running from it robs not only me and my mom but the generations that follow.

So we have worked.  When it might have made sense to let it go and play it safe, we have engaged with each other and risked the hurt and vulnerability of letting each other know that it matters.  Our honest hearts won’t let go of each other.

My mom is coming for Christmas.  She will be in the midst of the feasting and the laughter and I know full well that she will bite back comments about how things might be better organized and I know full well that sometimes those comments will slip their way out of her mouth and into my ear.

But they don’t have to take up space in my heart.

What takes up space in my heart is profound admiration for the mighty mite that is my mom.  She has endured much, lived much, and loved much.  She has not let go of me.

Gathering for Christmas means readying our hearts.  We will mourn those absent, mark in our hearts the shifts and losses and remember years gone past when things were different.

But oh, the chance to be present to the wonder of the Word Made Flesh in our midst is stunning gift.  We get to learn what it is to love.

My mom is coming for Christmas.

Thanks be to God.

 

Advent 17

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,  and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of God has spoken it.  Micah 4: 3 – 4

Home is… what?

 

Home is warmth and light at the end of a long day.

Home is choices about space and sound and interactions.

Home is safety and a sense of secure wrap.

 

During Advent, we await the birth of a child born apart from that warmth and securitycalled “home”.  Why is it that the Word would choose to become flesh in such absurd vulnerability?  What was God thinking?!

 

The Word became flesh in the straw of a manger warmed by the bodies of animals because we are to know that our God inhabits the pain of want and the pain of living with fear.  In precisely such a place Jesus was born in order that we might consider the no-room-in-the-inn reality of all too many of God’s children.

 

This year we are encouraging our church to give and give generously in order that we might provide home for homeless youth in the southwest metro area of Minneapolis.  These are young people (250 on any given night) who long for their own “fig tree and vine” (see Micah above) in order that they might feel secure in this world.  We are working with Portico, an interfaith consortium of people who believe that homelessness leaves Jesus on the streets; cold, hungry, promising, and so afraid.

 

Ours is to work for a world in which compassion lights the streets.

 

You may choose to give to Portico or another organization that ends homelessness.  You may choose not to give. The reality is that we live the privilege of making choices day after day.

 

But whatever it is you choose, be aware:  you are choosing.  From the taken-for-granted safety and warmth of your home, you are choosing.

 

How it is you will shine Christ light in this , God’s world?

Keening

This morning in Newtown, CT, moms and dads poured cereal and tied shoes and kissed their kids goodbye as they left for school.  Teachers and principals got their children bundled off for school and turned to the vocation that compelled them to work for a better world.

Nearly 20 of those children and educators won’t come home to tell stories about what was for lunch and what they learned in science.  Places at the dinner table will never be filled again.

They won’t come home.

Don’t talk to me about the right to bear arms.  It is obscene that reality in 1791 when the world was drastically different would eventuate in children and educators being slaughtered in their schools.

Do we need guns for self defense?  Ask the man who shot to death two teenagers in Little Falls this past month.  Ask the man who shot his own granddaughter, thinking she was an intruder this past week.

Ask the parents of the too-many children and youth slain by guns.  Ask movie theatre patrons sprayed with bullets.  Ask college students in a locked-down campus.

Ask your heart:  for what purpose do we need the ability to project metal into the hearts and bodies of others?

Ask why are we not rending our clothes with grief and terror because when people mow down children they are mowing down the future and at a deep spiritual level it is clarion call: We are broken.

We are in need of communal repentence and accountability because these are our children.  They are our children.  Our future.  Our hearts.

And some of them will not come home tonight.

 

 

 

Advent Day 13

Sometimes it feels like this time of Advent is a bit like making Jello (which I do seldom, truth be told).

 

There is an end vision of what will be but really, who knows how the stuff will interact together?  Will it all gel?

 

I think about the ingredients that make for a fine bit of gelatinous goodness for me.

 

Dressing my house matters.  Christmas tree lights and crèche sets and the Christmas Village and the Advent calendar with the half-dog-eaten stuffed bear that moves around and ceramic angels and treasures unpacked year after year.

 

Planning feasts matters.  We’ll host both moms and four of six kids on Christmas Eve so planning the turkey dinner between worship services and imagining the Swedish Pancakes and leftovers on Christmas Day makes for happiness.

 

Choosing gift treats matters.  I love giving presents.  It may be a sickness.  It’s joy to hold beloveds in my thoughts and imagine what might delight them.

 

Planning worship matters.  Christmas Eve services resonate with power and love.  At the 4:00 family-friendly service we romp.  With kids jazzed and adorned in Christmas finery and parents delighted to have made it to the finish line, there is a zing of energy that connects us all to joy.  At the 11:00 service, the air seems to shimmer with hope and the vision of good will for all people. The notion of peace on earth feels heart-possible.

 

Love matters.  When the kids are in town they go to Cooper’s early service (married to a UM pastor, I am) and my late service.  Truly, preacher’s kids are marvels.  There is this heart valentine that blubbers me every year:  Cooper’s late service is at 10:00 PM on Christmas Eve.  Richfield’s is at 11:00 PM.  Following his service Cooper motors over to Richfield UMC and slides into the pew next to the kids in order to be present for worship.  Every year my heart leaps as I see him at the back of the sanctuary.  Love matters.

 

Savor matters.  Finding time to be still and open to the birth of wonder matters greatly.  At such times I remember that life is not an endurance contest but rather is invitation to miracle.  Day by day, the opportunity to allow love to grow presents itself.  Day by day, the gift is given.

 

So, what makes for wonder Jello in your Advent season of preparation?  How will you honor the desires of your heart and the finitude of your ability to do it all?  What are the spaces you make for savor to happen?

 

I pray delight for us all in this season of preparation.

 

home

I am freshly back from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota.

I was part of a group of nine women from the church who planned and packed and set out on a woman-powered adventure.

I’ve never gone in this early in the summer.  It was different, as in cold.  We were a layered crew, humbled by the basics of keeping warm and dry.  It rained.  We had one day without rain but the others kept us aware of the need to stay dry.

We were ambitious, planning a route that included a 169 rod portage,a 90 rod portage and two smaller portages as well as river and lake paddling.  We figured that if we didn’t have the energy to push to our goal, we could rest for a night on one of the two lakes between.  We forgot, though, that a major burn had gone through the fall before and the two lakes that might have given us rest were eerie charcoal.

So push on we did.  Going there was hard.  We figured that coming back might be a bit easier.  We were wrong.  On the day we broke camp the rain poured down.  Before we made it off the first lake we were soaked and shivering.  I was grateful for the portages, because they allowed our bodies to pump some warmth through our systems.

And then there was the wind.  We paddled back into white caps and cross winds that prompted deep digging for what felt like hours of paddling.

At the end of the last long portage, feeling relieved with only two short ones to polish off, I landed in a full body (complete with pack on my back) sprawl in the water.  It was thankfully a move witnessed by only one of my paddling sisters.  She was good enough to help me get the darn pack off my back while I was pinned on my hands and knees by exhaustion and a great good laugh.

We made it out.

And I am now home where water runs from taps and heat is more than available but home is a funny thing.

While sitting on a rock watching may flies hatch in the dusk, I was home.

In the cocoon of a tent sharing heart and laughs, I was home.

In the whip of wind and power of white caps, I was home.

The moveable temple of at-oneness calls me home.

Always.