There is a bit of scripture that pictures God as mother hen gathering her chicks. (Matthew 23:37)
I have always felt the power of that image. Chick-gathering is in my wiring in ways fierce and strong.
And I cannot much do that gathering in these days of pandemic living.
You join me in this ache, I know.
My biological chicks have issued the mandate that their “elderly” parents (when did THAT happen) are to stay home.
My church is connecting in ways that don’t involve physical gathering. My gratitude for a staff that can support this frontier of cyber-connecting is immense.
And, leading worship in an empty sanctuary hurts.
How do we live, we who miss the sense of gathering in our body selves?
I find that I have become connection obsessed.
Our church staff is moving into largely distance work. We shared a “Last Supper” of pizza and appreciation yesterday. We will meet via Zoom every day but how to name the grief of not sharing ideas and laughter in the flesh?
My children are reaching out daily. This I like. And, the role-reversal of their concern for their vulnerable parents pierces my heart. After years of being the mother hen I find that my chicks have powerful capacity for tending.
Who will we be when this pandemic loses its power? How will we connect our hearts and passions for the good of all while we shelter in place?
While I cannot open my wings to embrace, the Holy can and the Holy does.
I pray for us all the creativity and heart to continue to know our connection.
Even as we know the fear, grief and anger of this time, we are profoundly gathered in.
I am home sick on New Year’s Eve.
This was not my plan.
Instead of playing games and eating food with great folks I am tuned into a concert being broadcast from Lincoln Center.
I turned it on and my mother swooped into my heart.
For many years we gathered at my brother’s house to celebrate Christmas on New Year’s Eve. We would eat and play and then gather around an outdoor bonfire with the stars dancing overhead.
That tradition morphed for my mother into symphony concerts in the company of my sister and her husband.
And then, as the years made getting out harder, she took in the concerts available to her on television. I would call her and she would fill me in on what the orchestra had played.
So I am carrying on her tradition, I guess. She would have enjoyed this concert.
On this first turning of the calendar without her, I ache with missing her as I wonder at this living of life without her.
This year would have worked her fierce heart.
The falling from the sky of her grandson and his miraculous healing would have made her near sick with worry for Miles and Brook and for her beloved daughter Margie.
The finding of cancer in the body of daughter Cynthia would have been anguish for her.
And this election? She would have been spitting mad.
I dreamt about my mother last night. In my dream, she was dying. I remember thinking in my dream that I thought people only died once. But there she was, readying herself for death. I was grateful to be with her.
I wonder: Do we die more than once? Do we leave incrementally?
The gifts of those who touch our lives sound on in Copeland and in Strauss. Stars shine over bonfires. Hearts ache with missing.
Blessings on that which was.
Blessings on that which will be.
Happy New Year.
I went to church every Sunday while I was growing up.
Rarely did I get to sit with my parents during worship. My dad was up in the pulpit preaching and leading worship and my mom was in the choir lending the gift of her voice to the mix. Often I was in the pew company of my siblings. My older siblings tolerated the presence of my younger sister and me. We were preacher’s kids: watched and alone together.
When I did get to sit by my mom for worship, it was a treat. She smelled good. She sang harmony on the hymns. She did more than tolerate me. I could mold myself to her side and play with the rings on her fingers and when it was time for offering, she gave me a dime to put in the plate. I was no spectator. I was a contributor.
My mother’s birthday is this Sunday. She will be 85. What I came to realize is that more than anything else I wanted to sit by her side during worship. I never get to do that, since I am now the one in the pulpit and she lives four and a half hours away. On her birthday I wanted to be next to her in worship savoring her good smell, her fine harmony, and the unnameable gift that is her presence in this world.
I took Sunday off. I will be by my mother’s side as we share a pew and our gratitude to God for the brambles and beauties of life.
And maybe, just maybe, she will give me a dime to put in the offering plate.
Gratitude takes up space.
Gratitude swells and transforms and it is alive alive.
The kindnesses of my life sprung from the heart of human grace are tender mercy. Love lives in my home and it visits in the form of children who share life and laughter as well as questions and ache. The tender goodness of thick coffee and attentive hearts are ground for the stretch into the unknown of each day.
The artistry of the Holy pounds in the power of the Great Lake outside my window and it spangles in the still of night and the need to stop and pay homage lives in every “thank you” breathed on every day. Two bald eagles dipped blessing over our heads yesterday. Two.
Where is the space for so much gratitude?
I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think about kin these past months.
I left a church that had woven its heart into my own. We became Spirit kin and moving from them left me wobbly.
I arrived at a new place of making life, soul and ministry and have found kindreds who share hunger and thirst for hope and grace. We are making ourselves known to each other in the breaking of bread and the sharing of song and story. I preach and lead worship with pores open, seeking to hear their hearts and feel their questions. We are learning what it means to be kin.
My children by birth and by marriage have been surrounding their clergy parents with support and love and ground during this time of transition.
Cooper and I are learning a new town and new topography and a life without traffic jams and abundant concrete. The land here speaks in cadences of corn and curve.
We are listening to our lives.
On this day my children by birth are gathering at our cabin. They are celebrating a “sib fest”.
In their midst will be my eldest daughter’s dog. Chela came into Leah’s life in Denver after having roamed the streets. She has been Leah’s steadfast companion during times when her dog heart grounded my daughter in ways life saving. Sometimes I felt like Chela was my heart, able to companion and ground my daughter when I could not.
Said dog is very sick.
I pray body wisdom for my Pit-Bull granddog and heart ease for her mother.
And on this day my heart is sounding wonder about the vastness of love.
Love claims and and companions the making of life and it stretches hearts to the aching place.
We wobble, listen, weep and grow.
We are held by kin who walk on two legs and those who walk on four.
My daughter is getting married.
Oh. Oh. Oh.
She who was born bright of eye and wise of soul has found a companion who shares the light and the deep of it all and this, this is momentous.
She will cleave to another. While it has been years since she last shared home with me her home will now be established around the nucleus of the heart they share and tend.
What courage it takes to love, to say “yes”, to open to learning life in the company of another.
They have that courage, do Leah and Terin.
We who love them will bask in the power of what it is they become in each other’s keeping. They are good together. The shine and ground of their love is blessing to creation.
And this mother, this mother is feeling the cellular surrender that began at Leah’s birth. It has long been such wonder to behold the world through her being.
Now I add another to my heart and apprentice myself to learning life through him and my daughter is getting married.
My mother is 84 years old.
She skated with the Ice Follies, raised four children, survived divorce and a second challenging marriage, rolled in a car three years ago and picked herself up to begin life again. My mother is petite tungsten. She raised us to work hard, be gracious, and appreciate the beauty of creation and music.
She came for a visit. To do so, she climbed on a shuttle from Duluth and when she arrived at the Minneapolis airport she was summarily dumped by a driver who was in a hurry. In the midst of his rush, she was dropped at the wrong place with the wrong suitcase. How to connect with her waiting (in the wrong place) daughter? How to forgive herself for her suitcase blunder?
We found each other due to a kind fellow traveler. As we were going down the escalator to get into the car and there discern how to retrieve her missing suitcase, a traveler ahead of her lost control of her suitcase. Said suitcase, with handle in the up position, wedged itself in such a way that as my mother went down the escalator that suitcase handle encountered and gouged her shin. She was trapped. She was injured. I was there and powerless to do anything but hold onto her.
She limped away and after a few steps tossed off in a sort of no-big-deal way that she was bleeding.
And so she was. Her leg had been barked and opened. When she allowed a look at it, my whole body hurt because she had such grievous wounds.
We got her suitcase after a trip to the Mall of America Transport Hub and to Shakopee. All the while she worried; not about her leg, but about how she was inconveniencing me.
I am so very much aware that the woman of steel and grit and heart is a woman made fragile by years and life.
She let me tend her. She whose voice, tenderness and steel I carry was willing to let me kneel at her feet and tend the places of wounding. It felt like a passing of the mantle. Much of me is moved and grateful to be able to mother my mother. The other much younger and surely primal part of me wants to shout and fuss because it will never be done with needing a mother, this child.
I will never be done with needing my mother.
The Prayer of St. Francis invites us to ask God to use us as instruments.
I am feeling like I have been well played.
Today my eldest marks her last birthday in her twenties. Twenty nine years ago I was little prepared for the heart-stretch wonder of being a mother. I so savored carrying her life within my body. Certainly I loved her unfolding and promise as she grew and claimed her space within me.
But nothing prepared me for the stunning miracle of the way her eyes and heart and hands are so fully open to life and love. Nothing prepared me for the sheer terror of responsibility and the deep sense of completion found in being her mother.
The shine of her eyes during night feedings and the song of her morning salutations live in a place in my soul where I am pregnant yet with life.
There are many words that describe my being in the world.
Leah’s birth gave me the name of my most resonant calling. I am Leah’s mother, blessed with bearing witness to the song that is her life.
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.