The Beautiful Ordinariness

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Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the memorial service for a good friend. Leslie was one of those people, the kind that leaves a desperate void in her wake, one that does not need notoriety, but longed for goodness and light in the world. And knew that within this longing resided her work, so she provided this goodness and light for countless people spanning the globe. She was one of the best ones, and our world will now function forever at a loss.

I glanced at her boy throughout the service, remembering my almost twelve-year-old self sitting in the same front, center spot during my own mom’s memorial service in 1984. He seemed so little, yet, back then, I felt so old. I felt the weight of responsibility, this void of my mother’s, now mine to fill in some strange way. The roles of nurturer and laundress and grilled-cheese maker and little-boy-hair-brusher now mine.

There was a disservice done to me when my mother died. My mother was canonized. She was frozen into perfection. While I’m not sure this was my doing or someone else’s, it happened. She was a remarkable mother, a pastor’s wife with four young children. We were loved well and endlessly. And  yes, I know she wasn’t perfect, but it took me awhile to remember or realize she wasn’t, because she was pretty darn close.

And so, when it came my turn to bear children, to stay home (my choice) and raise them, I assumed I was a constant failure. My canonized mother would never do the things I did. Or maybe she did and I couldn’t remember. I know she was tired. I know she gave beyond what she had to give. I know she was loved and honored and treasured by everyone who came to know her, and yet, I could not rise to that level, I could not step over that moving, high bar.

Observing this young man last night, I realized his parents did something really good. They were honest with him. Spoken from the stage was a true story of someone who loved in exquisite ways, but someone who was also exceptionally human and remarkable and beautifully familiar, grounded. And in her beautiful familiarity, she got stuck sometimes. She needed help. She blew it.

We all get stuck and we need a helping hand. We all fail and we all blow it beyond what we ever imagined. We all need boatloads of love and grace from our fellow human travelers. May we not try to uphold some impossible standard for a life and do a disservice to one another. May we seek to share and demonstrate a modicum of honesty and vulnerability, setting aside our need to win, to be better than.

As a Christian, I am bound by the rule of love. And the rule of love sometimes means I put others before myself and other times it means I put myself before others. Sometimes personal healing and health is the priority, seeking freedom from oppression, defending myself against unfair treatment and injustice. And whether I’m learning to love myself or others, I realize love is not a passive endeavor. I am convinced there is a reason loving God and loving others as we love ourselves is our greatest command. One can spend an entire lifetime deciphering what love truly is, as the most confusing, uncertain, non-binary task we undertake. Love is not bound by rules, but love does have ingredients: vulnerability, honesty, empathy, compassion.

When we place another into the elevated position of worthy – this is love. When we seek to understand, when we recognize the creation of God before us, when we respect another’s story, this. This is the work of the Divine. This is the work of honoring our people. Leslie reminded me that to love is to be humble, gentle, and remarkably exceptional in our ordinariness, in our familiarity. And in appreciating the ordinary, the simple, we discover the extraordinary in the minutest of moments. We discover the extraordinary in the most ordinary of people. And each person is transformed, transcendent, exquisite. Each person is the most important person on the planet, in that moment, elevated and holy.

I pray for my friend’s family. I pray for their process as they move through grief and loss and redefining a new path. I pray for myself, for my own work in upholding the rule of love. I pray for all of us as we seek to love those in our homes, our neighborhoods and communities, extending life, goodness, and light to all.

I pray we all seek to live the life of beautiful ordinariness, that seeks to see and know the people who believe and act different, who vote different, who parent different, who love different. May we heap oodles of kindness and compassion so our world may heal the rifts and we may see and know how to freely give so we may freely receive.


Building the Universe


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Song of the Builders

On a summer morning

I sat down

on a hillside

to think about God –

a worthy pastime.

Near me, I saw

a single cricket;

it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.

How great was its energy,

how humble its effort.

Let us hope

it will always be like this,

each of us going on

in our inexplicable ways

building the universe.

– Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early (2004)

There are days where it all feels like too much. There are days where the relief is a long time in coming. There are days when the news is equal parts compelling and overwhelming. I suppose I am a glutton for punishment, one of those folks who doesn’t know when to stop. One of those folks who doesn’t understand when it is too much. I walk the fine line of being informed with being freaked out, unsure what the right answer is, unsure what the point is. I walk away from time to time, recognizing the remarkable privilege I own, that I can walk away, that I can rest.

And while these days feel big and I quake in my bed, the overwhelm tries to edge me toward despair. Yet, what always emerges in my contemplative practice of  prayer is a light, a stillness, a beauty. Gratitude flows and God’s mercy is displayed centered and true.

I’ve never been a glass half full kind of girl, I prefer to not assign an expectation but to be grateful that there is liquid in the glass at all. I have a sunny disposition and a warm smile, but the creases in the furrow of my brow are riveted, deep and permanent – a result of both age and concern. I welcome many into my fold with ease and without suspicion. And I do try to seek the best in all people and all situations.

But I get tired of all the feels. I’m tired of knowing this shit to my bones. I’m tired of seeing. And I’m tired of being tired and a freaking internal disaster.

A therapist friend called this morning in the midst of my staring-out-the-window grief and confusion. She asked how I was and I could not hold back. My tears, frustrations, and fright all tumbled out along with the apologies and backpedaling attempts to not also add to her burden. But in her gentle kindness she held my verbal and emotional dump with honor and care, echoing her own concerns and stories. We always have fellow travelers. We may have but a few, but they are a dedicated and diligent few, present at the right moments in the most important of times.

And in our conversation I recounted the incredible goodness of my week. The celebration of twenty-four years with my most wonderful partner. A late-into-the-night 50th birthday party for a dear friend who wasn’t supposed to see this side of 40. A precious soul who has gone through six years of hell, now living life to the fullest again – her beauty, peace, and kindness radiating like the sun. A girl with three years of grave health concerns, graduating from high school and preparing for college. A mama robin touring her babies through the yard, educating them on how the ground works and where the juiciest of worms reside. A delicious cup of coffee in a funky cafe in the mountains, while the youngest dirt bikes to his heart’s content. Soaking thunderstorms in the night. Three games of Yahtzee and a delightful movie to cap off a good day. A daughter with her own health concerns, carrying the stamina to work for the Forest Service through the summer. A human chain of 70 people saving a family from sure drowning at a Florida beach. The hope of a new church coming to my community and the people climbing out of the woodwork offering unconditional love and support.

And it hits me, I am one of the builders. Those of us who choose to see, who choose to know too much, who choose to own our responsibility and our discomfort. We are the workers, the builders, the strivers seeking to reconcile Creation to its Creator. We choose to dwell in the tension of no longer shirking in denial, no longer hiding in fear. We still quake in our beds and the ground is unsteady under our feet, but we choose to face. We choose to own. We choose to wrestle.

The degree to which we experience discomfort and suffering is the degree to which we can know joy. The degree to which we see the world and the people around us is the degree to which we can know truth and understand our privilege. The degree to which we know our privilege is the degree to which we can make peace.

My calling is to somehow be a part of the grand work of reconciling Creation to the Creator. The only way to counter hopelessness is to receive God’s love for me, and in turn, love others. The earth is groaning. Creation is crying out for relief. Science is our greatest indicator of the physical risks to our planet, and many are denying the evidence. We are called absolutely to the work of love in our world, to our world, bringing restoration and reconciliation through the making of peace. And until we open our eyes and SEE, until we look at what IS, and cease to dwell in denial and personal comfort, our efforts are nil.

May we be brave, may we know, may we see. May we risk comfort and eschew denial, bringing justice to Creation – each of us going on in our inexplicable ways building the universe.

The Wonder Women

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We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.

Margaret Atwood

I have to admit July 4 has never been my favorite holiday. Maybe it’s the heat and bugs, or the crowds, I’m not sure. Growing up, my family celebrated the day with minor enthusiasm, often accepting an invitation for a barbecue and fireworks. I don’t know from where my lack of interest arises, but I find the day annoying.

Mind you, I must be clear, I have a lack of regard, shall we say, for all holidays that aren’t Christmas or Thanksgiving. The pomp and build-up, the overtaking of social media, the inevitable comparisons that reveal my lack of interest and/or creativity are overwhelming. I tend to wish these days away. Valentines’ Day? Yuck. St. Patricks? Forget it. Halloween? Never. I do love, however, when friends who adore celebrating invite me along.

But this 4th felt different. More than an annoying day on the calendar, or an obligatory social event, It felt oppressive and uncertain. I know how fortunate I am to live in this country. I know I have freedom to spout my frustration. I have privilege to say the things that I want to say. I can go to fireworks if I want, or stay home if I don’t. I have much to be grateful for. But this day, this year has been hard. Conversations are fraught with difficulty. Family gatherings are more silent than conversant. I wish it was different, but I’m not sure how to make it so. I try. I fail. I leave feeling bereft.

When you love something, you can also hold criticism for it. I love this country. I love the people in it. I love the vision we’ve been invited into. I love democracy and the idea that we all have equal participation.

But do we?

Do we really have equal participation?

As a woman I don’t believe I do. And I don’t believe black people do, or brown people, or indigenous. I don’t believe gay or transgender people do, nor do people from less than upper, middle class. Which leaves us to one specific demographic – white, wealthy, straight men.

I took my daughter and son to see Wonder Woman this week. As the credits rolled and the lights came on, my daughter took a deep breath, and stared at me with her eyes wide. Her affirmation of the movie was clear. She uttered an expletive and I shared her awe. We departed the theater with light in our eyes and hope in our step. My twelve year old son wasn’t quite as enthralled and a bit confused by our exclamation. He enjoyed the movie fine but couldn’t identify with our passion, delight, and enthusiasm.

Driving south toward our cabin, out of the little mountain town, I shared vehemently, but not unkindly, with him the reason for our exuberance. As I blew through the reduced speed limit signs onto the rural highway, I failed to notice the flashing lights in my rearview. Explaining the significance of a female lead in an action movie with actual fight scenes, the beauty of women, and the ferocity of a Mother God who desperately adores us, I had no idea of my speed.

The officer asked if I knew how fast I was driving, to which I replied, “No, I’m so sorry. I was too excited. We just saw Wonder Woman!” Amused but stern, he departed, license in hand, leaving myself and children to reflect on my mindless mishap. My son mentioned, to my deep joy, how proud he was of my lawbreaking abilities. The 68 MPH clip was significant in the 55 MPH zone, but the officer let me off with a warning and a reminder to slow down, also mentioning he did not want to ruin our perfect Wonder Woman evening.

“Thank you so much, sir.” I said, with undaunted enthusiasm and relief.

The hope for our communities, churches, nation, and world rests in the rise of women. As Wonder Woman claimed her power and understanding throughout the story, she experienced points of great pain and disillusionment. But this did not lead her to rest in defeat. After careful consideration, she owned what was, and determined it was her work to bring the relief and justice and mercy to the situation, to the people.

I believe I  was justified in my sadness yesterday. I believe I am justified in my resolve today. I know the work I am called to – whether it is scratching my child’s back, making a meal, planting a church, writing a blog, or hosting a dinner – is changing the world. And the grief, disappointment, and resolve are my super powers. Through the process I find the strength that has always been mine. I discover the desire, the gifts, the burn to put myself in the hands of my call. I marinate in the resolve, owning my agency in creating a more just and generous world.

Women will change the world. We already are. Not at the expense of white, wealthy men, but alongside, in equality. Let’s discover what truly makes us sing and what makes us want to spit nails. These are significant clues to what matters and what we are designed to offer our world. Do not believe for a second you are not worthy or qualified.  Each of us equipped to do the good work of reconciliation and restoration. The essential work of Love.

Join me.

Roundabouts are for the Birds

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O snail
Climb Mount Fuji
But slowly, slowly!
Kobayashi Issa

The nest in the rafters of the porch has a four-pack of baby robins. Their necks strain hard for mom as she gathers their next snack. Unfortunately, mom can’t seem to satisfy, their need so great and her efforts finite. But she tries, she darts and pulls from the yard and ditch, digesting and regurgitating for the greedy infants. We had concerns, for her nest building capacity seemed limited. Inefficient and messy, the nest now provides a sturdy home for her hungry youngsters.  Her instinct of dedication nothing short of miraculous.

It seems the most important work we do is never linear, a forward and back that borders on inefficient and uncoordinated. I have found this to be true of my most important undertakings: marriage, parenting/keeping kids alive, and now planting a church.  The kids are alright and I am grateful for the benefit of being taught by them. In my marriage, with missed opportunities and slung words, we are pushing twenty-four good years. And this church plant is happening. My word.

How is this? How is this economy of broken efforts and poor motivations still functional? How are the kids alive and decent? How do Eric and I find ourselves desiring and seeking the best for one another? How is it we make any progress with the backs and forths, concerns and doubts, the questions?

And when I’m still, silent, abiding, I sense deep in the recesses of my gut, in the undetected nether-world-space where the Spirit dwells, Trust Me.

And sure enough, there it is, it might be the next moment, next day, next year. It pops, like a Jack-in-the-box in the middle of the bramble-covered path. Hope is reborn, the path expands, and the work once again reveals itself as an apology, a course correction, a slow down, a forgiveness, a conversation, a project.

Trust Me.

This summer marks our fifth backpacking adventure. Myself and three friends, we take three to four days to hike in the Colorado Rockies. We have become more efficient with our packing, but the first couple days are always tricky with carrying the weight of gear and food, adjusting and readjusting. There is a cycle, each time, that seems to assert itself – with the weight and heat, the elevation and incline – the middle is so difficult. Bodies hurt, clouds threaten, feet blister, spirits wane. We choose challenging routes. Our treks are not easy and our mettle is tested. As we summit mountain passes, the trails steepen while our packs pull back, our bodies strain ahead, each step a test, each switchback a temptation toward futility. The path winds and criss-crosses. Slow but incremental progress is laid with each and every shuffled step.

But each step accomplishes great work, and with time the summit is attained. The sea of jagged knife-edged peaks on display as we celebrate the prize with a quick exit from our packs.  Snacks are dispensed, cameras snap with selfies, and fleeces are donned to combat the windy chill. We recognize the remarkable accomplishment because of the pain, because of the wait, because of the desperation. Beauty and awe persist regardless of the difficulty and faulty motivations. Beauty and awe await our effort, our seeing, our celebration.

The little birds are ugly and wrinkled, but growing by the minute, feathers now cover their wings, eyes slight with open slits. Their mother has given them life. She has sustained their existence. She is responsible for their thriving. Her instinct of dedication and tenacity a roundabout way to accomplishment. Her inefficient and poor nest building abilities pale in comparison to her persistence. As she hops across the yard, a plump worm hangs across her beak. She implores me with her beady eyes to relocate, to give her a bit of privacy. But I can’t stop watching, I can’t turn away, for the strain and swing of skinny necks yearning for fresh meat, responding to the provision of their mother is my hope.

Success is never linear nor is success certain. The next thing is all we have, the next uphill step, the next lean in, the next press. While we are not always guaranteed a view from the top, we do get to survey how far we’ve come, we get to feel our legs and lungs strengthen, our desire and resolve unfurl. And all the while, trusting in the perfection of the One who loves us despite our wandering motives and imperfect ways. We stop, take stock, breathe, nourish, and remember. Generosity and provision are ours for the taking… we persist.

My Just Right Deconstruction

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I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
Galileo Galilei

My deconstruction from the assumed, correct, never-to-be-questioned tenants of Christianity began with the coming out of my brother. I was raised by people who rendered it safe to ask questions. My parents, while accepting the church world they functioned within, also respected the institution enough to criticize it. I think this is the appropriate response when we love something or someone. We question, we debate, we criticize and seek compromise. This is not the sign of a hater, but the faithfulness of a lover.

Yes, we were required to do all the churchy things. We followed the “guidelines” of our denomination – as the pastor’s kids, we didn’t get much of a pass on the biggies: going to movies, dancing, drinking alcohol, smoking. None of this was of particular concern for me. I felt it my duty to be a good example, upholding the standards and I stood firm with a generous willingness. Many ask if I rebelled or despised this way of life. No, not really, not that I can recall. I gained a lot from being good. It served me. I had chips with God and believed in my sacrifices for righteousness.

Things really started careening in the 2008 Presidential election.  It struck me as odd that Obama seemed to me more amenable to the things Christ cared about, yet Christians were supposed to vote Republican. My narrow view, which assumed all Christians were evangelicals, was tested and I could not understand this particular arrangement, this notion that right wing politics was God’s dream for America. It didn’t make sense. But I blamed myself. I believed I was wrong, that something inside of me was broken, that my questions were the problem and my doubt was a sign of misunderstanding. And I wasn’t smart enough.

Unfortunately for this Enneagram 1 and INFJ, feelings matter. If my gut and beliefs do not align, my gut wins. I find the rationale later, and it always comes, but this meant I was uncomfortable for almost a decade. I railed and questioned and I assumed something was wrong with me.

Meanwhile, through all of this, I was still attending church, I was still raising my babies with the idea that Sunday School is paramount and church attendance is god. We went. We served. We got tired. We got disillusioned. We switched churches. We rested. We recovered. We asked more questions. We returned to the original church. We sat and sang and stuck our kids in youth group. We stood and listened. We yelled. We prayed. We cried. We left.

I say we but most of this is me. Eric had far less attachment than I to the Christian ideals, but respected my process and desires.

The deconstruction is a messy and bloody battle. Some days I sit and stare out the window, trying to remain and be still. Other days I run and cry, yell and curse, the only antidote – Mumford and Sons really loud. I eat, I shop, I Netflix, I angry hike. All the while, remembering I am loved. My spiritual life, my faith has taken hits, but nothing has done lasting damage. In fact, I’m reinforced and I’m more certain in the path I am walking. Always, I am given “the next right thing” to do.

And now, I believe my reconstruction is quite complete. I have found a new space, new purpose, a generous expression of God’s presence in the world. I am encouraged and filled with more work than I know what to do with. I am going to be a pastor, and believe it or not, it’s what I’ve always done. But I still feel pain and grief. What American Christianity has done is unconscionable. So many have been devastated by what is supposed to be good and right and loving. And I’m not sure how to fix this. I have to push into the future, into what is supposed to be and I know that I am where I need to be.

I may someday achieve full and complete arrival. But I doubt it. I don’t want it. I’ve become rather fond of this nebulous space that presses and sends me toward discomfort and tension. My road isn’t paved with ease, nor is it paved with clarity. This expectation is a useless dream that I will never realize. I like it this way, though, to be honest. I like writing to figure out what I think. I like long and roundabout conversations with trusted comrades. I like answering my kids with I don’t know, what do you think? The older I get, the less certainty I have. And it seems I am fine. It seems that this weird space is good. It seems, as long as I remember how loved I am, I don’t need to be afraid.

When I’m confused. When I can’t sleep. When it all hurts. I rest my head on the ample bosom of God and ask: What’s wrong with me?

She always responds in the best way:

Nothing baby. You do your work and I’ll do mine. I love you. I’m proud of you.

Long Awaited Life: The Hope of a New Church

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Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.
-Shel Silverstein

November 5, 2017 marks two deeply important accomplishments. My firstborn turns eighteen this day. His birthday marks not just his remarkable and beautiful life, but my emergence into the eternal call of motherhood. This day is the day I harken back to that early morning under the harsh, antiseptic glare of the operating room in Boulder, Colorado. The squalling infant coaxed and pulled and whisked away for further monitoring. His cry known, imprinted upon this mother. The force of my maternal instincts, an indeterminable sensation from which I will never know full release.

And this November 5, 2017* also marks the birth of a new life for the Church. This date will be our first Sunday, meeting together as a congregation. The three year long gestation fraught with starts and stops, notions and dreams, excitement and utter boredom. The waiting, if anything, is what will undo a person in these times. And I have waited.

Boy, have I waited.

On this November 5 I say good-bye to the child I once knew, holding him near but not too close, for fear of preventing his becoming.

And on this November 5 I say hello to the new arrival, turning her form over between my palms – inspecting, wondering, examining. I will take in her color, her features, her cry and her knowing look. I will shed a tear with a simultaneous laugh, alongside my partners and cohorts, friends and loved ones who have equal participation in the life of this body. With equal parts exhaustion and joy, our vulnerability exposed, we will usher her into the world of our beloved community.

I have joined ranks with the most qualified and generous humans who love her as much as I do, who dream about serving through her in the most wonderful of ways. Ways that honor gifts, talents, and dreams. Ways that consider awe and miracles, mercy and hope. As we prepare her home and consider her name, we dream of the holy work we will accomplish through her. Of the people she will love. Of the hearts she will touch. Of the wounds she will heal.

I yearn for us to gather together at her table filling up with the bread of her brokenness, the wine of her sacrifice, the bounty of her love, the heart of her compassion.

I want my beloved friends, neighbors, people to discover and believe, to know the wholeness of the Church, the hope of the Church, the generous love of the Church.

We are a species built for hope, not designed for despair. When hope dims, we do too. The Church is God’s expression of hope to the world. But the Church has not always cared for us well. The Church has abused its power and allowed our worst parts to manifest. I am not immune to the pain we have inflicted, nor am I immune to the good we have done. I have received both. I have dealt both. And now in these times, more than ever it seems, we ache for the warm embrace of community, the promise of being known as we are, the confidence of being loved as we are, the delight of being accepted – through and through, body, mind, soul to the marrow of the bone.

Hope has felt far this season. Light and dark are at odds, evil and good sparring hard. I scan and scroll, hunting for goodness, surveying for truth. The efforts tempt me toward despair, but I find joy, relief, hope in the work. This young dream, a call, emerging as an amorphous blob, nondescript with nothing but the tiniest hint of a pulse. The fire in my belly persisting, feeding in the middle of the night, keeping her alive despite my attempts to deny her existence. And now, a definable form, still incubating but alive and kicking, carrying me from day to day on the tide of her beauty and light, her wonder.

Friends, what I have seen and what I know to the core of who I am is nothing short of miraculous. This awaited new life, she’s going to take our breath away. She will be made beautiful through our imperfect humanity. Her life and breath, for us. Her heart, for us, for ALL of us. Her beauty, ours. Her love, generous.

The light of Love and tender mercy will shine bright, darkness has no power that will vanquish her flame. Radiating, pouring out in and through the beauty of us, her people, her blessed chosen ones, persisting. All of us participating in her expression to the world.

We return to hope. We celebrate the change that happens through the shifts and bends of time. We grieve the past, we heal, we step back into the world, remembering how very loved we are. This love that will never let us go. This love that is made perfect through our human imperfection. This love that persists in the despair, delights in our flaws, restores through redemption, resurrection –

The Church.

November 5 is the day I first became, the day I experienced true love mixed with true fear – coalesced into the string bean form of a hollering, blue-eyed, bloody infant. And this November 5 will be the day I say hello to a new love, a new life.

I can’t wait to meet her.

*tentative start date – hoping hard

What I Now Know

Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.

– Agatha Christie

We arrived early this week to our cabin in the mountains. An inexperienced robin is building her nest in the supports of our deck. It seems, for each blade of straw used in  construction, another gets dropped onto the profuse pile below. Two prosperous irrigation ditches border the property where the bird darts low, gathering mud and sticks from the moist banks, securing the grass before it tumbles to the floor. Her efforts, while painful to observe, have resulted in a sturdy nest, shaped just right, with ample room to house and hatch the fertilized brood when her time comes.

I, myself, know something about building nests. While expecting each of our three children, we moved. In an attempt to create a home, preparing the nest for my babies, I ambled and crept up and down ladders to paint rooms and hang pictures. My nesting instinct carried me to exhaustion in the belief my productive days were over once the new child arrived. No conversation or argument could dissuade me from this instinctual drive. My nests, built and prepared, stick by stick.

I am once again nesting in preparation for the arrival of our new church. One recent early morning, my precious sleep was mocked by four years of unchecked accumulation. The moon glowed high at 3:00 lighting my way to the garage to begin the work of organizing and cleaning.  As my nesting instinct kicked into overdrive, I noticed the call of my body. The wondering, worrying, sleepless sorting all siphoned toward the anticipated and joyful arrival of new life.

Female instincts are woven deep. As I become less concerned with appearance and more invested in a generous and justice-seeking life, I am learning to explore the deep, innate sense that moves inside of me. Recovering from a lifetime of tamping down a body’s instincts is not easy. Letting a body lead, letting a body inform ahead of the mind is not culturally acceptable. And this ever so important work of listening, considering, and responding without judgment, requires me to rest and trust in grace and the Spirit.

My methods are not linear, nor can they be carefully bullet pointed and proven. But as my precious robin friend demonstrates, there oftentimes is no observable rhyme or reason. There is no “right” process. There are detours and dead-ends and an eventual, hopeful arrival. Expectations must be tempered and the nest may appear disheveled and disastrous, but the nest exists, capable of housing and holding beautiful new life.

The mother robin knows her body. She knows the cycles and the signs. She knows the operating instincts. She knows the life growing inside and pays attention to the need to lay and incubate. Her nest, while inefficient, is functional. The walls perfected, sturdy up against the roof’s beams. In and out she flies, hundreds of times a day, securing and cementing, responding to the call of what she knows.

I am in the grip of wonder. Nature offers a respite from the concerns of the world, a relief from the burdens and fear, the infighting and lies. Nature reminds me of what is inside me, my instincts for generosity and awe. The robin builds her nest to prepare for the fertilized batch. The slight hummingbirds waft about, seeking sustenance by the gram. Dogs splash in ditches, and the young teenager motorcycles and mountain bikes his way across the property, mastering and surmounting all obvious obstacles. As the river runs its due course, rising by the minute with melted snowpack, the green grows, the sun draws her arc across the sky, and the moon trails in tandem.

Nature and beauty prevail, and this is where I must remain. The heartbeat of wonder, brewing and sustaining, the goodness and persistence of hope carrying us forward and back in the dance of flow. We grieve and break down, rebuild and renew. Resurrection is what we are designed to do, to yearn into life and trust the rise and fall of tide. We must rest in the tension of existence, in the bass notes of love that call us forth into our great becoming.

I trust the robin’s nest will withstand the daily thunderstorms and the comings and goings of a busy family in the woods. I trust her process, remembering my own – my seeming nonsensical approach to awaiting new life, following the rhythms of instinct, the roll of the gut.

I rest in what I know. The world is held. It is in times of derision and suffering  when goodness thrives. When hope is distant is where we find our footing in faithfulness of life and breath. The whispers of the Spirit invite us into deeper and longer rest, careful and faithful waiting. We hold back, trusting in the generous grace and remember whose we are and why we are here.


We are created as the sustainers and the seekers, the lovers and caregivers. As life is stored up inside of us, as life yearns to emerge, we trust. We wait. We listen and respond, knowing that the pinprick of instinct and the fire in our bellies can teach the world a little something about resurrection.





Looking Up

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Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.

― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I’ll be honest with you, my dear reader friends. I’m afraid. I am now employed beyond the walls of my home. The details are still to be kept quiet, but my life is changing. I have for over seventeen years derived great comfort and security in the firm and infinite womb of motherhood. This caregiving work greater than anything I could ever dream in my young, twenty-seven year old imagination. And now, at nearly 45 years, I get to consider new possibilities. I am called, implored, invited to consider new possibilities.

But I’m scared. For some reason, maybe it’s the pride I was fed that we were somehow better or exceptional. Or maybe it’s the Christian thing, that we are immune to the dregs of life (we all know that’s been debunked by now). But I have allowed myself to believe that the success of my family might be because of me. The marriage, the health of the children, the “smooth” running of our home, the successful business – somehow were because of my sacrifice. And part of this may be true, but if so, is the inverse also true? If I’m not as present, it all falls apart?

When one is insecure, the lies flow, don’t they? I’ll be the first to name it, so you don’t have to – it’s crap. I have a calling and I am equipped for this new role, but I am not required to set aside my mother status for the job. I recognize the need for patience and grace and adjustment and I will claim this. Just like the relaxation in second child parenting after freaking out over the first – the adjustment is tricky and we have to be kind to ourselves. We react to what we don’t know and we do better the second and subsequent time around.

In this life of faith, there is always an element of risk. Always. We don’t get easy. We get what builds trust, and what teaches us to listen and wait. Sometimes we wait with patience and sometimes we don’t.  And I admit, my friends, I have been trusting, listening and waiting – ever so imperfect and jerky, for a very long time. The day is here. The ball is in my court, the work is mine to do. And the view is beautiful. I am ecstatic over the wonder. I am floored by the goodness and holiness. And I am wholly and appropriately terrified.

I suspect grief is a reliable companion in the closings of existing chapters and the beginnings of new chapters. My children are growing in independence. They know what they need to do. They are good people who might make dumb decisions and still need parents, but we are in a new space, and for this mom, it’s hard. As a new chapter unfolds while the previous chapter is not quite over, the transitions are never seamless, requiring readjustment and loads of grace, holding the chapters each in one hand – ever so careful and generous.

My fright feels appropriate for today, for I carry none of this lightly. My tears feel necessary and my joy feels adequate. All must be held with grace and a careful grip. To cling too tight may cause the thing to shatter. To hold too loose, it may tumble to the ground. The mystery requires I carry with a tenuous grasp.

On my regular runs I am the looker upper, while my running partner fixes her eyes down. I spot the birds while she spares us from snakes and ruts. Mid-conversation, I point out herons and eagles, hawks and osprey. She claims the coyotes and foxes. Either way, above or below, we take in the sweeping clouds as they scoot across the expansive Colorado blue. We honor the shades of vibrant green springtime. The snow piled high upon the tallest peaks invites comfort in contrast, a longing for diversity against the backdrop of the jagged rock faces.

All of this is my wonder, my awe. All of this inspires me toward deeper communion, reminding of the generous grace we get to claim as our own. All of this invites me to rest, in the bosom of my beautiful Creator, who knows my heart, my desires. My call is fixed and I am invited into the glorious expression of love through goodness and divine design. The struggles of the world, the conflict of hearts, the worn down bodies, the fears of mothers and the questions of fathers, the wrestle of children, the concerns of humanity are all held here. And I find hope again, and rest, renewal and relief.

My work is my greatest desire, held together within the womb of my motherhood. I gaze upward in wonder, and downward in humility – carrying the responsibility and reward with a generous grace and a rather careful grip.

Feeding the Resistance

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How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
― Anne Frank

I emerged from my mother’s womb demanding justice. My poor sister, Julie, 21 months my junior had no say in the matter. She and I, counted and doled the M&M’s with precision, we switched without debate who rode in the front seat. Our UNO games ran fair and square, except when one of us lined our hand with the “dirty cards” while the other went to the bathroom. Snacks were meted to the smallest crumb, money loaned and repaid, birthday gifts exchanged to the dollar. Never was there a discrepancy I did not announce with fanfare and righteous indignation. My life, our relationship, demanded even-steven equality.

A quest for righteousness was pre-programmed into my genetic code. As I gained my voice and courage, my activism carried into the public sphere. At the age of thirteen, our local Fuddruckers restaurant in Orange County received my clear statement of disgust on a comment card: I know what you are trying to do, it will not work. I will not use the “F” word. Please consider changing the name of this restaurant. I was absolutely incensed. A dining establishment could intentionally coerce me into using this queen of all curse words.

A few years later, while attending my alma mater, a conservative Christian university (the perfect breeding ground for good girls with stellar Bible handling skills, a love for Jesus, and serious guilt complexes), I had another opportunity to display my voracious drive toward justice.  I distributed and circulated petitions to protest the removal of pews from our precious Goodwin Chapel. Someone had the audacity to propose stackable chairs as a replacement to the well-worn, uncomfortable benches laden with nostalgia and tradition.  After acquiring a couple hundred signatures, I  plopped my stack on the pastor’s desk, fleeing without a word.  My justice seeking has limits.

The firehose of news has taken its toll. Last week, I was tired and bereft. I felt useless and helpless, ineffective and unworthy. My powerlessness to change anything was acute and any hope of optimism was waning fast. I miss the days when news was not a mandate as the same stories circulated for weeks. I miss the days of balancing information with life, rather than life balanced by information. The load has been heavy and my heart heavy with it.

For all the talk of resistance, one may get hung up on notions of marches and letter writing campaigns and phone calls and angry, activist-y rants. But our most powerful resistance has little to do with our usefulness or our anger or our righteousness or our pursuit of justice. Our finest, most impactful resistance dwells within the work we were created to do, determined by our gifts and desires. Once we can recognize the power of receiving joy, hope, love – we become equipped for the greatest, most life-giving challenge. The beautiful and complex work of loving our neighbors well.

As we live into our calling, into our desires and generosity, we become the Resistance. When we know beyond any doubt how loved we are – we become an unassailable force of good. Evil shudders at our powerful impact.

Friday evening we held our fourth Community Dinner*. Forty-five people stuffed into my modest home, as the rain fell on a dreary May evening. Forty-five people ate and drank and told stories and laughed – altogether in the coziness of my living room and kitchen. Forty-five people chose joy and hope, too.

Our resistance is held in the collision of our desires and gifts, where wonder and awe proclaim the work of God, where laughter and hope find a place at the tables of our communities. I love my community dinners. I love the people piled into my home, spilling into the kitchen and out the doors. I love the kids wandering amongst the adults, teenagers on their phones, plates piled high in the sink. I love my living room turned dining room, with my couch on the back porch and my bedroom full of coats and purses, I love the mismatched silverware and the thrift store dishes. This is my resistance – doing what I love with what I have.

While I did not win the pew challenge, nor did Fuddruckers alter their brand, I spoke, I listened to the knot in my gut. My motivations well-intentioned and certain, regardless of outcome.

You will still find me marching, joining new organizations, attending meetings. I will make calls and write letters. But my best resistance is creating spaces for stories around food and drink, in a brick mid-century ranch, surrounded by old and new friends. My anger will continue, my frustration will remain, but my quest for hope, my lust for joy, my forward lean into Love is where my best expression dwells.

Resist onward, friends.


*If you are reading this and you live nearby, near Boulder County, CO, you are welcome to join us for dinner. We gather the third Friday of each month. Shoot me an email if you’d like to get on the list.

About Those Good Old Days.

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Emil was already familiar with those people who always say, “Goodness, everything was better in the old days.” And he no longer listened when people told him that in the old days the air was cleaner or that cows had bigger heads. Because it usually wasn’t true. Those people simply wanted to be dissatisfied, because otherwise they would have to be satisfied.

Erich Kästner

Yesterday was the perfect Colorado day. The temperature cool but not crisp, good for light layers and long sleeves. A friend, her toddler and I walked to a local park where cottonwoods loom and squirrels scavenge without concern. Train tracks run along the east perimeter. We waved to engineers of the passing trains, awaiting toot toots.

Our time together was showered with firsts. A first time careening down the covered slide without assistance. A first time climbing the ladder. I do it! a common refrain from the independent minded two-year-old, while mommy’s hands were never far from her tush. Unintelligible-to-anyone-but-parent’s proclamations punctuated my friend’s and my conversation around politics and plans and parenting.

I am grateful for the teenage years, as tricky as they’ve been. But I found myself longing for days gone by. I wanted the days when I knew my kids were safe. I knew who they were with, what they ate, how much technology they consumed, when they pottied. I used to know everything. I used to be in charge. As hard as it was, it was my job. And yesterday I wanted it back. A return to simplicity, purpose, certainty.

Those younger years were not my best. I was not happy or thriving. The early years of motherhood were fraught with more baggage than I will explain to you today. Trust me, it wasn’t always good. I hid it well.

The lens of nostalgia rarely offers clarity. Instead we believe a washed out version where the desperation and grief is eliminated. We carry the memory but not the specifics. My early days as a mother were mired in handwringing frustration and fear. But now as I face the natural and normal tides of teenagers, I glamorize the park visits, the long days. I edit the soundtrack, removing the discomfort and difficulty.

I have deemed myself useless as of late, with the firehose of news. Those of us concerned about the state of our nation and world, find ourselves scouring for infinitesimal nuggets of goodness. I traipse the fine line of being informed and being obsessed – praying, hoping, yearning for better.

In our quest to make America great, to return to a time of ease and simplicity, many Americans believe an ideology that seeks to take us backwards. We elected a man full of promises, empty of policy. A man who has insulted each and every marginalized people group, who bullies and lies and scorns anyone not of his white, male, heterosexual ilk. A man white American Evangelicals have touted as God’s answer for our country.

Whose America was great? As far as I can tell, the only group doing great in America is the white, heterosexual, wealthy male. Otherwise, it seems the others are, at best, ignored – children, women, people of color, LGBT, Muslim, disabled, Indigenous. When America is only great for some, it can never be great. The goal is baseless, spineless.

So, we have traded our forward movement, our inclusion and generosity, for an imaginary day in the past that never did exist. The lens of nostalgia never tells the whole story. This is why I ran more than one marathon and why I had more than one child. I forgot. I forgot the pain, the fear, the discomfort – all of it. I was left with a memory, a beautiful memory, that did not inform my future comfort. I did complete the marathons and I definitely continued the birthing process for two more, but I was reminded. And I said something to the effect of Oh shit. Now I remember.

As much as I love the scent of a child from the bath, the goopy grins and the godlike giggles, my station in life no longer revolves around young children. To long for a return is not helpful to the children I have now, the lives they live, the life I live. We must evolve and grieve and celebrate the endings and beginnings of new and old chapters. To live our lives backwards is to choose dysfunction. To live idolizing the good old days damages ourselves and our communities. As we live in the present, in the way of love, we must weigh the evidence, consider the facts, honor our bodies, and discover the truth as it is revealed. We press forward in this knowledge, dispensing life in new and fresh ways, eschewing greed, striving for the collective good.

The notion of “Leave it to Beaver” needs to be left behind. It’s time we strain forward for the goodness of what is before us, loving well, fiercely protecting our neighbors. We cannot sacrifice our greatness on the altar of self-service. We cannot choose silence in an attempt to return to fictitious days gone by. We cannot lean backwards into days that never were.

Instead we march in the rhythms of grace, honoring one another and ourselves with our actions. As we choose life and abundance, we serve our neighbors, our nation, our homes in what we know to be true – it’s all about love, generous, inclusive, life-giving love.