Category Archives: Lent

The Lenten Writings:  April gives birth

This is a day where we remember the waiting, the not knowing what would come next on that long ago Saturday. The day between. 

Waiting is SO hard. Especially when you are 39 or 40 or 41 or 42 weeks. Or a giraffe who is 16 months pregnant. 

And the world watches. 

I got a call this morning, early, that a baby was coming. This happens to me pretty often. As a midwife, my phone is on loud, 24/7. But this was different. 

The baby was a giraffe, and two legs were already out!

As a midwife, I know that it’s “hands off the breech”. Let the baby come in it’s own time, letting the weight of the body gently drop. Don’t engage the startle reflex for the baby, or the tightening of the sphincter that fear produces in mom. Only touch if absolutely necessary. 

The zookeepers knew what many in obstetrics have forgotten. Birth happens best when it is undisturbed. 

And so we watched. The mama walked around, two legs out, taking an occasional lick of the amniotic fluid for energy. And finally, so slowly it seemed to the watchers, the body began to slip out. Slowly at first, then all at once, the baby giraffe emerged. 

And then the drop. Six feet to the ground, the whoosh stimulating the baby to breathe. And the mother watched, curious. She gently began to lick the baby with her tongue, encouraging it to breathe, replenishing her strength with the fluid. “Plop”, the placenta came. (They do that, you know, without pulling or tugging, often as the mom stands). 

Did you keep watching? Did you see the baby stand on wobbly legs, then fall down? The mama was so patient, letting the baby smell and nuzzle. Finally the baby found the teat and began to nurse. What a delightful surprise! The colostrum, or “liquid gold”, was tasty!

The zookeepers began to become impatient, their curiosity winning. They came close, talking and jockeying for a better view. April noticed too. Her tail began to twitch. She arched her head. She curled around her baby, shielding it from view. Mamas do that too. 

It matters how we are born. 

It matters how we welcome babies. 

April has given us a gift, this holy Saturday. Birth is holy ground, when we let it be. As a midwife, my “job” is to let it be. 


Welcome to the world, little one. 

The story’s not over…

how can this friday be good?
what a crazy parody, to nake an instrumemt of death the symbol of a faith. and then to celebrate a death day like a birthday…
the bottom line is this:
the story’s not over.
sunday’s coming.
and in the upside down kingdom, this is good news indeed.
i have a story. maybe you do too. (actually, here is a secret…we all have a story).
there is beauty in my story.
there is violence in my story.
there is lots of not knowing in my story.
i need to know that sunday’s coming.
and so tonight, we tell the stories. the stories of the brutality. the stories of the desperation. the stories without hope.
stories of friends who keep falling asleep right when a friend needs them most.
stories of a guy who talks about peace and then chops off an ear with a smelly fishing knife.
stories of sarcasm from a dying con, gallows hunor, perhaps?
stories of a sabbath filled with darkness and absence. a sabbath where the fragrance that lingers on the women’s hands is the spices of death, not of the baking of the challah.
and in the middle of the stories, i can hold my own not knowing a little more gently.
the
story
is
not
over.

The Lenten Writings: I am marked

I have never participated in Ash Wednesday. I grew up in a conservative circle, the rhythms of the liturgical year far from my reality.  Actually, I did not know what Lent was until  a class in college. Easter was a big deal, and eggs were suspect. We did make an egg tree where we hung detailed hand decorated eggs which depicted the resurrection story.

Yesterday at the Mystic Activists I was marked by ashes. It was a profound experience actually, as my head was cupped and the blessing given:  “may the peace of Christ be with you”.   Ritual for some perhaps, but for me in it’s newness , the words hung with power in the air.


All day long I felt the ashes against my skin. I watched people’s eyes meet my eyes and then travel upward. Some spoke, others were strangely silent. Perhaps, like I can be in some situations, they were triggered. Others had many words, born of their own experience. I heard stories from moms and grandmas at dance of growing up and going to church before school. The person checking me out at the grocery store told me about their growing up church experience and how they are trying to make sense of faith now. For one day, at least, it was easy to enter these conversation.

I have been sitting with the significance of being marked. It makes me wonder, what has marked me in my journey?  Words and images come to mind; stories of beauty and pain. I had the opportunity to be in the Northwest this weekend. That is a place saturated with sensory memories for me.  Things that have marked me…

I Wonder, what is your experience of being marked?

  

Lenten writings: changing times

My advent ran into Easter! Three months into rehab from the car accident seems long. A year is the projection, for the nerve in the arm and for the concussion. The broken bones are strengthening. Soft tissue damage takes longer, but my arm is out in the open. 

  
Today is Easter. Breakfast in the garden at Hope House, followed by baptisms. On Good Friday, Neighborhood walked the paths of Canaan in the Desert, listening to Kit narrate the story of Jesus’ last days. A weekend made for me; natural light, evening and morning. After a long period of isolation, it is so good for my spirit to remember that I am deeply rooted in the very fabric of community. 

And this journey, this week; remembering another journey so long ago. Yesterday impacted me the most. Saturday, the day we know the least about in Holy Week.  Bits and pieces in Sxripture suggest much was moving in the places unseen. Sounds like another time in the void, where the Spirit of God, the Ruach Elohim, the great wind, moved over the face of the waters (Genesis 1). 

And now Jesus. Moving in the darkness, in the chaos, in the places unseen. Bringing life, hovering, calling forth, stirring. The Street Psalms community came to neighborhood. Kris Rocke challenged us to look for Spirit in the midst of chaos. 

This has been a time of crisis for our family, a chaos in the aftermath of the accident. I am curious then, in the light of Easter, to look for Spirit. 

The Ruach Elohim. 

Here. Now. In me. 

Lenten writings: by name

I have called you by name, you are mine… (Is. 43;1)

Maybe this is all we know of heaven; to be called by name. 

There is the name each of us was given, at birth. As a midwife, I see people choose names for many reasons:  a favorite aunt, a family tradition, the season, circumstance, the meaning. Often in today’s culture of peeking in at a baby’s private parts, the name is chosen midway through the pregnancy. 

The last book of Scripture says:

I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

I was named “Joanna”, Ιωαννα, Grace. As my father’s sermon illustration explained, after 18 years of waiting for a child it was sheer grace. 

I found that hard to hold as I wrestled as a grown up with the reality of my story. How could a child be longed for and then so violated? And so I asked God about it, and the answer came. Your dad named you for his own reasons. I have named you “grace”. You are living into that name. 

Mary the Magdalene came, in tomorrow’s Lenten Easter story. She showed up at the cross too, choosing to stay in the pain. She had known agony; 7 demons Jesus cast out of her. And so she comes, drawn by love, to finish the embalming process cut short by the Sabbath. And He is gone. Her hope, gone. 

She asks the gardener where the body of her Lord is? Does he know where they have taken Him? And He answers with one word, Mary. 

And it is enough. More than enough. Her name, spoken by the One who knows her story. 

Joanna came too, to the tomb early in the morning, that first day of the week. Nothing more is said. Perhaps He spoke her name, too. 

Joanna. Grace. 

The Lenten writings: Spirit

As swimmers dare

To lie face to the sky

And water bears them,

As Hawks rest upon air 

And air sustains them, 

So I would learn to attain

Freefall, and float

Into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace

Knowing no effort earns 

That all-surrounding Grace.”

(“The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire by Denise Levertov, 1997)

Today I did Freefall for some moments.  Thought stilled, time suspended. The warm wind of Spirit caressed my soul with her gentle breath. 

The children were engaged in a discussion of history as dinner wound down. Young voices, man-cub and shrill, intermingled with grown-up tones. One-liners produced stifled laughs as sincerity begged to be honored. 

And I felt it. The Presence.  

Bedtime tuck in, roles reversed as the youngest prayed a blessing over me “that I would continue to be a really good mom”. Lord hear our prayer. Thanks be to God. 

Hands held over points of pain, feet on the ground, flowing movement.  Anxiety quiets, the rhythm of breath changes beat.  All-surrounding Grace. 

Free fall. Float. No effort. 

Creator Spirit. 

Embrace. 

Lenten writings:  waiting

“Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we learn about Him for whom we are waiting.”    (Henri Nouwen)

And so, like a woman nearing the end of her pregnancy, we wait. The weeks stretch out as the belly grows…36,37…40,41…

It seems that we can bear no more. 

The long wait of Lent is nearing a close. Today we remember the crowd, jeering. No, that’s not right; that’s Friday’s story. Cheering, that’s it. 

Crowds are fickle. Politics show that. Arizona politics especially. Midwifery politics in particular. 

Too often, the crowds just want somebody to do something, powerfully. And to do it now. Fear and hatred can flip a crowd in an instant. 

Jesus seemed to be the man of the hour. He would get rid of those dreaded outsiders. They were tired of the wait. 

Only that was never the plan. The plan was much bigger. And the long wait felt too long for that crowd. 

But I am jumping ahead of the story…

Lenten writings:  the sacrament of kindness

Sacrament:  “a visible sign of an inward grace…” (Dictionary.com)

I think of the sacraments in terms of big C church.  Things like communion or baptism, sacred things. Baptists like the stream I was spawned in call them ordinances. They save the word sacraments for the Catholics. 

I received a sacrament tonight, from my daughter. She washed my feet, soaking them in herbs sent by an herbalist friend in Rhode Island. Then she massaged coconut oil into my feet and my hands, “so they wouldn’t be jealous”, as the younger kids say. 

It has been a long day, filled with noise and the shrieks of laughter of bio siblings reconnecting.  We have a branchy family tree, complete with grafted branches. 

The constellation of brain symptoms the medical community calls post concussion syndrome were high. They all come together, like so many stars in the night sky. Dizziness, nausea, visual changes, warm pulsing fullness in the ears, zinging in the brain, an inability to process multiple items, difficulty finding words, and an overpowering sense of being on edge…

It is easy for me to go to self contempt. From that place I do violence to myself with my harsh thoughts. “You’re such a…” Or “why can’t you…” Or “how can you even be…” 

Interrupting the barrage of thoughts comes my daughter, drawn home from her grown up world by love. Candles are lit, lights turned off, water drawn, herbs crushed. 

And as my brain begins to quiet, the love seeps in. 

John 13.” It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

He loved them. And then He washes their feet. A servant’s job. It was a stretch tonight to receive, for this mother. (Peter thought so too, by the way). But it’s a love deal. And love breaks contempt, drowns it in kindness. 

And in that space the ordinary becomes holy; a sacrament. Just for tonight…

Lenten writings:  breathing

My house breathes children.

In and out, in and out.

The shouts echo, against the backdrop of an Arizona spring. They echo inside my head too, magnified by post concussion syndrome.

The sounds of life; of friends. Breathing in.

Leprechaun houses built with hours of creativity. The boys follow and strategize how to poison the leprechauns when they come.

A daughter here from far away, drawn by love. Here to help things run smoothly. To drive and cook and infuse joy and life to the muted tones of our house post accident.

A daughter gone; close in heart but living on the other side of the globe. I read the news first thing these days.

Suddenly, there is silence.  Breathing out.

Everyone gone.

The waves of pulsing begin to still in my brain. I welcome the silence, yet I miss the sounds.

I wonder if that is what it is like when the children leave? That day still far away for our family, stitched together in a long quilt by threads of birth and adoption.

For today, my house breathes children.

Like breath work, in and out.

Lenten writings:  Joy coming 

“Joy releases love and compassion. The joy comes at times when you are needing relief. It comes when you are overcoming. And it brings hope.”

  (John Perkins, Neighborhood Ministries, 3/6/16)

“How are you?”  People greet me with this question all the time. “I am here”  is my answer. And that is enough. 

How do I explain that I am in a season of healing and strengthening. There is not day to day or even week to week change. I can see month to month change, perhaps; as I look back from the perspective of week eleven. Nerves take time to regenerate. Concussions take time to heal. Bones take time to knit. Ligaments take time to strengthen. 

Time. 

“I have time.”

I say that often right now. Time to listen, time to pray, time to reflect, time to be still, time to envision. 

And that is enough for today. Enough to see the sunset changing its hue from my porch. Enough to watch the sparrows scratching in last year’s leaves in the morning light. Enough to hear the resonant snores of a pug. 

Enough time. 

Enough joy. 

Because it comes, John Perkins says. It comes when I am needing relief. It comes when I am overcoming. It comes. And it brings hope.