Category Archives: Story

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:  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 Lenten Writings:  breathing in, breathing out

Waldorf education gave me a gift, unwittingly.  I watched as my kids, early childhood to high school, engaged in a rhythm of learning.  Intense periods of taking new information would be followed by gathering vegetables in the garden, or feeding the goats, or ironing cloth napkins, or doing yoga.  They called it breathing in, and breathing out.  The premise was that the mind absorbs more if it has periods to integrate that intake.  

I

There is a gift here for me, this Lenten season, as the rhythm of the 40 days invites me deeper still.  I need the spaces; oh how I need the spaces! As my body strengthens, and I am engaging more fully in midwifery, I find myself missing being still in my home. 

Now if you have journeyed with me, you know I had six months of straight stillness last year as my brain and body healed from a life threatening motor vehicle accident.  So it is hard to imagine, yes? I found out something in those long weeks turned to months.  I need stillness.  Somewhere in that cocoon of silence, where even music was dissonant, was Jesus.  I don’t  have a lot of words for all that shifted in my body and spirit in 2016. But it was good.  

I have moments of stillness in my vocation:  Sitting in a dim room, singing a baby out in an antiphonal wordless chant.  Or Standing with sister midwives in a circle, naming the internal agony of how to practice with integrity in the current medico-legal environment in Arizona.  Or Listening to my daughter’s words after a village prenatal:  “It wasn’t weird, mama, it just had a lot of beautiful things you don’t get to see very often.”  

But my heart is crying out for more.  I notice it as I see my humor come up in brittle, self-protective ways.  Or I feels its absence as I lay awake at night downloading the day in waves of sensory images.  I find myself sitting in parking lots, taking ten minutes to be still before I move on to the next place or person that deserves for me to be present.  

And so, for this moment, I am sitting in my garden, savoring the birdsong under a too warm Desert sun.  

Breathing. 

In and out.  

The mystery of Lent.  

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?

  

In the emptiest of places…

Politics aside, there is a dire need today to fight for justice for those who have no voice. A well kept secret is that God plays favorites. The immigrant, the poor, the stranger among us are mentioned more than 2000 times in Scripture. 

Folks are setting aside the next 24 hours to pray and fast. It’s not about whether you eat food or not. Isaiah 58 throws that idea in the mud.  I would invite you to sit with these ancient words today and see what stirs…

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!

    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!

Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,

    face my family Jacob with their sins!

They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,

    and love studying all about me.

To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—

    law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’

    and love having me on their side.

But they also complain,

    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?

    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.

    You drive your employees much too hard.

You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.

    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do

    won’t get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    a day to show off humility?

To put on a pious long face

    and parade around solemnly in black?

Do you call that fasting,

    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    to break the chains of injustice,

    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,

    free the oppressed,

    cancel debts.

What I’m interested in seeing you do is:

    sharing your food with the hungry,

    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,

    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,

    being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on,

    and your lives will turn around at once.

Your righteousness will pave your way.

    The God of glory will secure your passage.

Then when you pray, God will answer.

    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.”

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,

    quit blaming victims,

    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry

    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,

    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.

    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—

    firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden,

    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,

    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,

    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,

    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath

    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,

If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,

    God’s holy day as a celebration,

If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’

    making money, running here and there—

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!

    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.

I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”

    Yes! God says so!

The Message (MSG)

An artist date 

yesterday i was in a funk. loneliness linked arms with grief and self pity and threatened to push past anything in its path.
i sank into the inertia as the moon rise began.
finally i asked for help, messaged a friend, and took myself out. even the motion of driving down the street began to break the “stuck” feeling.
i walked through the aisles of Michael’s, 60% off coupon in hand. i was looking for pencils. prismacolor pencils.
if you have never used prismacolors you have not fully lived. i have a great set of colored pencils, every hue imaginable, in a cool tin. but prismacolors are like velvet. no “scritch-scratch” accompanies their movement across paper. they glide along, leaving vibrant hues in their wake.
my first clue should have been that the pencil aisle was bare of prismacolors, save empty boxes. they live at the front, near the cashier, under lock and key. second, the prices are in tiny print, no sales here. my eyes widened as i saw the set as broad as my 48 japanese look alikes was $89.99. out of budget, no discernment needed. maybe i could do the 36s, for some variety. nope. $67.99. even with the coupon i couldnt justify it. if i were an art major maybe; not as a midwife. i “settled” for the 24s, still $27.99 but remember, i had that coupon. up i marched to the front, trying to console myself that they were still prismacolors.
the cashier complimented me on my choice and headed for the case, key ring jingling. he returned too quickly, apologetic. “we only have the 12s, we’re out of 24s”. i could feel my heart shutting down, ready to settle. i was taught from an early age to do this, choose the smaller piece of pie.
then he brought out the 36s. “you could do these”. i asked him the price, hoping against hope thst i had read it wrong. nope…$67.99. my yankee training and an awaremess of our budget made that an easy answer. i felt my heart begin its shut down.
“just a minute”. he began to punch some keys, reaching for my phone to scan the coupon. after a few minutes he said, “how anout $15?”. wait what?! as if my brain couldn’t process the synapses i asked three times, “for the 36s?”
yep. that is what the man said.
“absolutely!” i said, and we both laughed.
my heart expanded a little, softened by the sirprise of unexpected grace.
nothing changed in my circumstances. all of the grief still remained. but my heart felt lighter.
and when i came home, before lights out, i colored a tiny bit of an elephant bright red.
just because.
and the color laid down like velvet.

The Advent Writings:  may the carols come true 

Truly He taught us to love one another,   His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease. 

The lyrics from Oh holy night are my heart cry this year. For myself, in this home; and in our land. Never have I been so aware of a time where fear and hatred rule the day. 

I picked up tamales tonight from a dear one this afternoon and felt  the terror looming for the uncertainty of the change if power in January. And so we eat them, recognizing that this gift is as sacred as the breaking of the bread. These are our brothers and sisters who awake each day in fear. This is My Body, broken….

And so tonight we remember an immigrant family long ago would flee to Egypt the day after the baby was born. Not what I would recommend for one day postpartum as a midwife!

I am deeply aware as well of my own need this year. The car accident a year ago represented for me the fragility of life. And the shockwaves that continue to move out from that day keep it in front of me. 

And so for tonight, I will hold the goodness of the traditions that weave the years together. We are family, in the middle of.

And so, I will go to the airport and our nest will be full. And we will welcome the night with pajamas and the morning with cinnamon rolls, hot from the oven. 

We will eat our tamales, and give thanks, and cry for mercy. 

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….

The Advent Writings: the long goodbye

I said goodbye to a precious friend today. Not the long goodbye, as C.S. Lewis says; but a goodbye nonetheless. And goodbyes are full of grief. They hold the not knowing and the not yet together in equal measure. They weave longing and loneliness into a braid of beauty and pain.

I wonder what it was like for Mary, holding a baby that she knew would move beyond her. Was there an ache mixed with the joy of watching him play? And then he stayed around longer than expected perhaps… 30 years. He left home to go be with a bunch of friends, new friends really. They were going to go travel the country without a real plan. Rumors came back, bits and pieces of stories. They probably seemed much bigger than life. And in the middle of the wondering, always the ache. 

So much of the story is not told. Perhaps there is beauty in the mystery.

So for today, I choose to hold the not knowing. I will trust that the beauty will come as the story unfolds. And dare to hold the ache of goodbye. 

Photo Credit Kate Wilder