Consider the Canna Bulbs

We don’t always know value–or beauty–when we see them. Case in point:

canna bulbs.jpg

Did you know that this pile is a pile of canna flower bulbs? Until today, I certainly did not. If I had walked by Helma’s Garden (the garden at First Lutheran) on my own, I probably wouldn’t have noticed them at all. And if I had, I wouldn’t have known what they were. (Pro Tip: No one has ever mistaken me for a gardener.)

During the summer, the beauty of those cannas was obvious: bold and tall and fiery red, they stood proudly in the back row of the garden for all to see. Now that it’s fall, our gardeners have done their work and a few leaves on the ground are all that remain.

All, except for the bulbs. Small and unassuming, their value and beauty tucked safely within. Store them over the winter and plant them in the spring, my gardening friend assured me, and they will grow tall and fiery and boldly beautiful again.

There is something so comforting and hopeful about this: long months of waiting, then invisible change and growth inside the bulb and under the earth, and then . . . beauty and boldness unfurl. When we want to hurry through seasons of darkness, or ugliness, or pain–or when we feel overwhelmed by these things–let’s remember the canna bulbs.

Let’s rest in the dark.

Let’s wait.

Let’s trust that new life will come.

Image from page 34 of

What darkness are you sitting in right now? What is the new thing that you are waiting for?

P.S. If you would like to take some of this buried beauty home with you, come on over to Helma’s Garden and help yourself.

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Filed under Learning Opportunities, Ministry Matters

The Color of Joy

Fourteen years ago, I spent a semester in Oaxaca, Mexico. It was a rich time of learning, exploration, and growth. But holy buckets, was I homesick! I missed my family, my friends, my comfortable routine. And as October rolled around, I missed fall color.

fall joy.jpg

The beauty down the block.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I opened a big envelope from my friend K and a pile of fall leaves spilled out. I can still see them: vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds, a simple gift that brought me a surge of comfort and joy.

Back at home in the Midwest, I get that surge of joy every time I see those colors on a tree. Every. Single. Time. Truly: the tree next to our driveway, the trees we can see through our living room windows, the glorious reds and yellows down the block, the views on Highway 60 coming into Mankato. I get a jolt of happiness every time I look at them. The delight of fall color just never gets old.

Now: if only we could say the same about raking.


Honestly, the photo alone makes me pretty happy, too.

Where is your surge of joy today?

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Filed under Thankful Hearts

Too Much of a Good Thing

I love Halloween. Kids in costumes, glowing pumpkins, roasting seeds, raiding the kids’ candy stash. What’s more fun than that?

Last year, I loved it way more than Leo did. I forced / bribed him into his monkey costume. (Pro Tip: Saying, “Do you want candy? Yes? Then get in this costume!” is not bribery; it’s an incentive system.)

This year, I’m not sure how Leo feels about Halloween. But I know how he feels about his giraffe costume: Continue reading

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Filed under All in the Family, Your Moment of Leo

Right Here Where We Live

Image from page 82 of "Catalogue no. 16, spring/summer / R. H. Macy & Co." (1911)

Have you seen Meet Me in St. Louis? The story of a mother, a father, a grandfather, and four daughters, all of whom almost move from St. Louis to New York City, but do not actually leave their hometown?

It is a pretty weird movie, but I love it. Judy Garland. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Homemade ketchup. Magnificent millinery. The horrifying antics of Margaret O’Brien. It’s all there, people.

Mike and I often quote the final lines of the movie to one another, because that’s just the kind of wild and crazy pair that we are. Here’s what happens: The family has made it through another year–they’ve escaped the move to New York City, Judy Garland and Margaret Bremer have found love, the homemade ketchup has the right amount of sugar in it, and everyone emerges from the house wearing fabulous flowered and feathered hats. They’re off to the World’s Fair!

As the whole impressively-hatted bunch takes in the wonder of the fair, Margaret Bremer says rapturously, “We don’t have to come here on a train or stay in a hotel. It’s  right here in our own hometown!” And Judy Garland, eyes shining, says, “It’s right here where we live! Right here in St. Louis.

I totally get it. It’s wonderful when the amazing things in the great wide world come right to your hometown. Of course, the World’s Fair hasn’t come to Saint James (I mean, not yet). But other wonderful things do come, or are already here. And as fun as it is to head out of town to do something special, there’s something even sweeter about finding the fun right here where we live.

right here.jpg

The star of the historical show. Isn’t it pretty?

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Filed under All in the Family, Movies and TV, Thankful Hearts

Calmed into Quietness

It is an anxious time at First Lutheran Church. We are preparing to say goodbye to my colleague, who has served so faithfully and so well in this place for twenty-one years. This is how it is to be a pastor–you love the people given to your care, but you know that eventually, God will call you to love the people somewhere else. We trust that this is good for all God’s people–the ones who are saying goodbye to a beloved pastor and the ones who are preparing to welcome a new one. But, still: a time of anxiety, of wondering and worrying and change.

It is an anxious time outside the church, too. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this 2016 election season has brought all kinds of ugly out in the open. It’s hard to keep listening to the news.

Film star Helen Twelvetrees, Rutland Gates, Bellevue Hill, Sydney, early 1936 / photograph by Sam Hood

Then there are all the private anxieties we struggle with every day. Continue reading

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Filed under Lord in Your Mercy, Ministry Matters

Worth the Wait

Miss Hera Roberts posing on the deck of HNLMS JAVA

Dear people,

It has been a while!

I have excuses. So many excuses to offer you for my failure to post.

However, since none of these (really, very good) excuses are actually very interesting, let’s just skip ahead to the part where we’re back in the swing of things. It will be like Monday night’s dinner:

Usually, I cook something, Leo rejects it, and I give Leo a bowl of cereal. Since it was just the two of us eating at home last night, I skipped steps one and two (cooking and rejection) and went right to step three (cereal for dinner). Leo still didn’t eat very much, but we saved a lot of time and effort. I’m calling it a win.

So. Mike and I took a trip to Chicago over the weekend. I attended Why Christian 2016; Mike explored the city and enjoyed Quiet Alone Time; and we went to opening night of Das Rheingold at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It was an incredible few days of learning, listening, worshiping, reflecting, and just being together. We had whole conversations where no small child interrupted us. We ate in restaurants without children’s menus and we got to eat our food while it was hot and drink our drinks before the ice melted. You get the idea.

There are many standout moments from the weekend. Here is one: Continue reading


Filed under Marvelous Miscellany, Thankful Hearts

The Gift of Getting Stuck


When was the last time you got stuck?

For me, it was last Thursday morning: Leo and I dropped Zoe off at school on the north side of town and made our way south on Armstrong Boulevard to drop him off on the south side. We were running late (even later than usual), and so we ended up on the north side of the train tracks when the crossing gate came down.

Usually, when something like this happens, I can feel my blood pressure rise. My heart beats faster and I stare down the clock, calculating what the delay will mean for the rest of my day. But this morning, even though we were late, we didn’t really need to be on time. Leo didn’t have preschool and I didn’t have an early meeting. We still needed to get where we were going, but not urgently.

So, I listened to the sound of the rain beating down on the car and the train thundering down the track. I watched the glow of the signal lights and the beading of the raindrops on my windshield. I chatted with Leo (who, as we knowloves trains) and soaked up his joy and wonder. In short, I enjoyed being stuck.  Continue reading


Filed under Thankful Hearts, Your Moment of Leo