Category Archives: Family

The Lenten Writings:  the long road

We are sitting with Desmond Tutu in the Mystic Activists this month.  His writings are mentoring us as we wrestle with the tough questions of reconciliation and forgiveness.  I find my heart stirring anew as I listen to this deeply humble man who lives what he speaks and writes.  

As the archbishop of the Anglican church in South Africa, Desmond Tutu chaired the truth and reconciliation commission, at the request of newly elected Nelson Mandela. This was a major change from how war crimes had been handled since World War II.  It allowed victims to tell their stories.  It invited perpetrators to tell their stories.  Truth is the only starting point to true reconciliation. 

Desmond Tutu says, “The problem with letting bygones be bygones is that they dont stay bygones.  They will return to haunt you…Forgive and forget says….What happened in your case either didn’t happen or it doesn’t matter” (D.T. On forgiveness)

It has been my experience that the road to healing is the road back.  Far from keeping me stuck in the past, it frees me more and more to live boldly today.  But deep courage is required to know, really know, my story.  It is only from that place of knowing that true forgiveness, or release from my right to revenge, can occur.  Its not a one time deal.  Thats why it is called the work of forgiveness.  

I wonder, where is the invitation for you today? I am wrestling it another layer deeper.  Because it matters.  

There can be no true reconciliation without it.  And we are desperately needing that in our community.  But even if reconciliation is not possible, if both sides are not willing to enter this work; it matters.  

It matters for my heart to be free.  

The Advent Writings: love and respect 

When you think about starting out a new relationship, Mary and Joseph sure got thrown in the deep end! 

Strict dating rules, a betrothal, a long distance relationship without cell phone service, a sudden return, scandal and gossip, breaking up, and a nighttime angelic visitor. What a beginning! 

And that doesn’t count a donkey ride in the middle of prodromal labor! Seriously?! Not one of my midwifery clients would sign up for that. 

I love how the Nativity movie portrays the growing love and respect between this young couple. It is inviting to consider this home that Jesus  grew up in. They needed that foundation! They were about to become immigrants, and just have each other;  perhaps in a land that did not want them.  Not so different from our precious immigrant families I get to do life with. 

This is a hard season for us in many ways. The holidays, always; my father-in-law died our first Christmas as a young couple. But this year has been a hard season on so many levels. 

I am so grateful for the love and respect in our marriage and home, which undergirds this unknown path. This young couple, married 29 years last August, got thrown in the deep end too. 

This Advent, may there be space to remember the journey. Theirs and ours….

Of turkeys and tables

I wonder what aromas swirled around your thanksgiving table today? The smells of turkey mixed with the spicy scent of pie, sharp olives and sweet sticky buns. Smells anchor memories, and foods evoke the ghosts of Thanksgiving past. Perhaps there is pain in the remembering. 

Talk swirls around the table too. Some families have gratitude rituals, drawing children and grown ups alike into the invitation to remember the year. Tears and laughter mixed today at our table as we recounted stories. Grief and joy can walk hand in hand in those sacred moments when time stands still. 

This is a liminal space for us as a country. The time between, not knowing what is ahead. For our immigrant brothers and sisters, who represent our ancestors too unless we are Native American, there is fear. 

Jesus came to the table too. He shared feasts and ritual with his family of choice. He invited others to the table. The stranger, the man who ripped people off, the woman from the other side of the border, the prostitute caught in the act. A shocking guest list, in a place marked by doing the meals right. 

I wonder who the Church invites to the table? In this space between, I invite you to wrestle with that question.  Don’t make the guest list too short. The widow, the orphan, the stranger in the land. The one who weeps, the one who dreams, the one outside your comfort zone. 

Listen to the stories as you go around the circle. 

And give thanks. 

Not acting

“Acting is fun. Some people act at life; but life is not an act. You have to show up real.”

My kid quote of the week. How many grownups know this? 

I acted in my first play in high school, my junior year, age 15.  I think it was maybe seven brides and seven brothers;  but I have a few high school people who would know. Anyway, I remember we were supposed to dance… only it was a Christian school. So they called it choreography and it was OK. I loved the swirling skirts. 

I loved acting. I loved the dressing up. I was really shy, and it gave me an opportunity to be someone else. But in real life, that was already a skill that was well honed.

In a “Ministry” household, we learned young to always be perfect. I know this pressure is common to all preachers kids and missionary kids (pk’s and mk’s).  Some respond like I did, and learn to be very very good. Some go the other way. 

In my house, there was another layer to it. What was shown publicly was not real life at our home. There were so many layers of contradictions, and hiddenness. It has taken decades, and lots of counseling, to begin to make sense of that.

And so I learned young to change my face. I actually remember one instance in particular:  a finger snap when I was crying, and immediately holding out my hand and putting a smile on my face to shake hands with the parishioners.  We extended “the right hand of fellowship.”
Old habits die hard. I am learning to show up real. That life is not an act. Sometimes there are situations that I don’t place myself in; so that I don’t default back. One step at a time, God is redeeming my story. 

I invite women to show up real. In groups, with my midwifery clients, with my kids. We use art, role-play, exercises, and sometimes a talking rock. I invite story. Because life is not an act.

You have to show up real. 

Precious Lord

I woke up with these lyrics woven vividly into a dream acompanied by the music itself:

Precious Lord, take my handLead me on, let me stand

I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m worn. 

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. 

When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near

When my light is almost gone

Hear my cry, hear my call

Hold my hand lest I fall

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. (Thomas A Dorsey)

I did some reading about the origin of this song today. The author was leading music when he received a telegram saying that his wife had died in childbirth. A week later, the baby died as well. Somewhere in the journey of his despair he sat at a piano and this heart cry poured out.

I also learned,  curiously, that Elvis made this song famous and also Mahalia Jackson. This was not something I knew as those singers were banned in my Baptist upbringing. When I hear this song I hear it in my grandmothers voice. 

My grandma was the song leader at Aurelius Road Church, in the Lansing/Holt area. She had a deep voice, unusual for a woman. As the story grows, or goes, she wore a peacock feather in her hat.  She was single in a day that was rare. She owned her own gift and Bible bookstore, and had a dry cleaning business. She had her secrets, which died with her.

I know that for me, as a child, my grandmother provided moments of safety. I had named her Meemie, early on. Supposedly, this was my childhood attempt to say pennies, and she always brought me plenty of those. So I would look at her purse In her photograph and say Meemie’s. (I will let you draw from that what you want to; it is not the point of the story). 

Meemie would come to see us on a big airplane, her floral suitcase bulging and held together with packing tape. When we opened it, it would be full of crackerjack prizes. No one ever pointed out where all those boxes of crackerjacks must’ve gone.

 I would lean my head against her fur collar as we came home from the airport,  trying to avoid the scratchy wool coat. It was cold, and it smelled like mothballs. I remember going to sleep with her sitting by my bed and singing the old songs, one after the other.

I felt safe those nights, and I think they were held safe by her presence. She represented moments of respite in a very confusing world.  

In later years, the tables turned. She had followed us to Arizona. I stayed to graduate with my class when my family moved to Canada. I was left with the car, weeks away from my 16th birthday. The agreement was that I would visit my grandmother once a week, and put $.10 a mile in a jar. I started out doing it out of compulsion. Very quickly, a deep friendship grew.

I would surprise her with Kentucky fried chicken and Mountain Dew. She would make waffles for dinner, and fill them with every mix in imaginable. I would bring my textbooks and study. And somewhere in the evening I would take out her old hymnal and sing. All the verses, one song after another. She would join in, her voice quivering.

There were many years where it was hard to sing those old songs as I wrestled with the reality of my childhood contradictions and violence. They are being redeemed one by one. The truth contained in the ancient words still calls to my spirit.

I walked the dark street tonight with my pug, singing this song. If the neighbors could hear, they might have wondered. They don’t know that a story continues to be written, co-authored by God. 

It is the story of an old woman and a little girl, a story of music in the night.

Coming home

A daughter came home today. I watched for her face in a crowd of strangers. I strained to see her, the anticipation rising in my soul. I felt the sheer delight burst through my spirit as I saw her, and hugged her tight.

I saw a friend once, so precious to my heart, moments after she passed into the Mystery. Her face held that same longing, that delight, like she had just seen someone for whom she had been longing all her life.

I just finished re-reading Frederick Beuchner’s A Sacred Journey:  “we must learn to listen to the cock crows and hammering and tick-tock of our lives for the holy and elusive word that is spoken to us out of their depths.” 

There was a moment when we were all sitting and braiding hair this weekend, a mother and two of her daughters. And for an elusive breath of time I saw the holy. 

 

What is a family?

We are on a branching family tree. Some little branches have been grafted in by adoption. We fostered and adopted within a sibling group with several other families. We have big kids and littles in our birth family. 

We have family of origin and family of choice. There are lots of ways to show up as family. We have family in this country and family in South America and Canada. We have family whose heritage is woven with the ancient people of Mexico. Family with African roots. Family looks lots of different ways. Some of the seedlings are starting family. Family that is rich and diverse. 


  It seems that my ideas of what it means to be family doesn’t  look the way I imagined many years ago. Gratefully. I am learning that family can be more diverse, more multicultural, more challenging, and more precious than anything I could have dreamed. More challenging, and more precious than anything I could have dreamed.

It takes a lot of work to grow family. Sometimes, the intensity is hard to hold. But we are family.

 

 

Be still…of muffins and life

Today I am baking muffins. A small thing really; although you have to count the cost of using the oven in the summer in Phoenix. My movements are slow, meditative.
I shape the muffins by hand, left palm up. The motion I was not “supposed” to get back. Sort of a secret form of physical therapy. This is the second time I have tried muffins  since I broke my hand and elbow six months ago. 

The first time, my daughter was with me. I could feel my anxiety rising as I tried to hold the bowl and mix the thick batter. I was hurrying, trying to make muffins (ironically) for the Mystic Activists group. She watched me for a while, love and compassion in her eyes. Her question startled me in its depth of knowing: “why do you bake as if 70 people are going to show up? Couldn’t you just enjoy it? ”

It was a question pregnant with story. It cut through the answers already forming on my tongue and left me silent. This image of my childhood, remembered by a daughter, vivid in color.

My dad was president of a Bible college for many years of my childhood. As such, we often entertained large groups of people in our home. Often times, he would forget to tell my mom that they were coming. A chance remark by the Secretary would throw us all into a frenzy of preparation. My mom would go off to the store and leave me in charge of the baking. I would send my brother to gather the neighbor children, and put them all to work at stations. I would move from table to table, instructing one to stir more, and another to pour the batter. It doesn’t take a therapist to notice signs of control at an early age. And so in this way, the baking would get done. Another group would come, and I would bask in the comments about how good it tasted. 

And so this is how I bake: in triple quantities, multiple recipes, and fast. I have a feeling of satisfaction when it is done, but very little joy.

And so this question stirred sometging asleep, deep within me. What would it be like to bake in a meditative way? Somehow, in the process of healing, I have begun to fold clothes this way. Slowly, feeling the warmth, smoothing the wrinkles. An act of worship. 

Some of my friends are keeping Ramadan. Often, we pray for each other during this time. One wise friend, grafted into my family tree, sent me a phrase from an ancient song book:  “be still, and know, that I am God.”

Today, while I was baking, the words came up in my heart. I slowed my pace, noticed my breathing, and closed the second recipe book.

One is enough. I don’t need to push past any longer. I felt relief, and something akin to…joy?!

Be still.

 

For tonight. 

So many nights right now hold more questions than answers. Sleep beckons, then eluded capture. Thoughts and feelings tumble over each other for center stage. 

So what is true?  What is true for tonight is the Presence. It is both not enough and more than enough. 


I remember early in my recovery process in 1998 night times were terrifying. Memories often came back at night, and there was no way to know what new truth might come into full knowing. The brain works that way, processing trauma as it heals. I often would fall asleep to Fernando Ortega: Jesus King of Angels. The words washed over me, allowing me to surrender and sleep. 

So for tonight a bedtime prayer:

🌛the peace of God be over me to shelter me, 🌜under me to uphold me, 🌙about me to protect me, ⭐️behind me to direct me, 🌟ever with me to save me. 💫The peace of all peace be mine this night. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

The gift of silence

The house echoes with silence. The kids have gone down to the pool with my husband. Summer has begun. The houseechoes with the noise of children. Arguing and mediation are the order of the day. Tomorrow, Swim team starts. Neighborhood kids club is just around the corner. 

A normal summer! The temperature has just jumped in a week from 97 to 117. But it is not normal. I have been in silence for five months of healing of bones and brains. Sometimes my brain echoes, even after the sound of voices has died down.

The silence may come in captured moments now that summer is here. A late night walk with the pug, an afternoon nap, a phone call on the front porch. I wonder how you recharge in the summer?

This summer, we are all in transition as we listen for the voice of spirit regarding work and vocation. I am waiting for a couple of babies, grateful that my hand is learning to turn palm up. My husband waits too, for the birth of vision and hope. 

Perhaps that is the posture  this summer; Palm up. Open hands. Ready to receive, fists unclenched. The posture of surrender.